Throughout history, people have puzzled over fundamental questions: Why was I born? What happens after I die? Does life have meaning? In 2006, Every Day Catholic will address these questions and explore the fundamental beliefs of the Catholic faith.

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‘Who Then Can Be Saved?’
 
By Thomas H. Groome

This is the rhetorical question that the disciples asked Jesus after he declared that “it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God” (Matthew 19:24). Their concern could not have been that they were rich; they were poor peasants.

Rather, they recognized that everyone needs salvation, that we cannot save ourselves and that the camel is smaller to the needle’s eye than our sinful baggage to eternal life. Jesus replied, “For human beings this is impossible, but for God all things are possible” (24-26).

Those first disciples came to believe that God was saving the world through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. They embraced faith in Jesus as God’s own Son and the Savior of the whole human family, the divine intervention that turned the course of history toward God’s reign. They remembered Jesus stating his own sense of purpose as life “more abundantly” (John 10:10), and they began to search for ways to communicate what this means for humanity and creation.

We find Paul using multiple metaphors to state the fruits for us of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. To the Galatians he proposed that this paschal mystery—ultimately beyond words—brought about our justification, redemption and liberation. He wrote that Jesus brings about our sanctification and reconciliation, and makes us “a new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17). To the Romans he said that Jesus won forgiveness for our sins and brought us God’s salvation. And Paul’s list goes on.

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Saved From, Save For

Over time, two favored metaphors emerged in Western Christianity—redemption and salvation—portraying Jesus as our Redeemer and Savior. From the Latin “to buy back,” redemption connotes that Jesus paid the price for our sins. From the Latin “to make safe,” salvation means that Jesus ensures our ultimate safety for eternal life. Both imply a negative condition from which we have been rescued and a positive possibility for which we are empowered.

Our Christian faith is that Jesus has saved us from all the powers of sin and evil, both personal and social; we are no longer held bound. He has saved us for living as his disciples, modeling “the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6) and mediating the grace we need to so live. Through faithful discipleship our salvation begins in this life and is completed in God’s eternal presence. By our Baptism into union with Christ we have direct access to God’s saving work in Jesus, and the Church is now God’s “universal sacrament of salvation” (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, #15).

Like Paul at the beginning, Christian authors continue to search for language to communicate this mystery.

All who have faith in Jesus Christ and are baptized into union with him can be saved. Catholicism also emphasizes that Christian faith demands “good works,” that we live the faith we profess.With the help of God’s grace, we are accountable to follow “the way” that Jesus modeled. Apparently, God’s final judgment will focus on our practical love, especially toward those in need (Matthew 25:31-46). Though discipleship is demanding, we take hope in the fact that Jesus has heightened God’s mercy toward us.

‘Many Dwelling Places’

As Christians, we are confident of God’s saving work in Jesus Christ. But then, if we are really Christians for whom neighbor knows no limits, we should be concerned about all the people who do not come to faith in Jesus, for whatever reason. Can people of every religion or of none be saved?

First, we firmly believe that there is one mediator between God and the human race: Jesus. Yet, we also remember Jesus saying that God’s house has “many dwelling places” (John 14:2). In this light, Catholicism has consistently held that all people can be saved by Christ through “baptism of desire.” This is the proposal that all people who do God’s will—as best they know it—have a virtual desire for baptism and thus are saved by their implicit faith in Jesus.

When explaining how all people are saved by Jesus and “associated with this paschal mystery,” Vatican II simply said that the Holy Spirit brings this about “in a manner known only to God” (Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, #22). Or, as Jesus himself said, “for God, all things are possible.”

Thomas H. Groome is professor of theology and religious education at Boston College and director there of the Institute of Religious Education and Pastoral Ministry. His most recent book is What Makes Us Catholic (HarperSanFrancisco).

Next: Why Do We Have to Suffer?

Questions for Reflection:

• How would you respond if someone asked, “Are you saved?”

• What do you think theologians mean when they talk about salvation being liberating or making possible “the full flourishing of our human potential”?



FAMILY CORNER
Sharing Our Faith
By Judith Dunlap

Salvation is available to all people. All that is required is openness to God’s loving, healing grace and responding to that grace by sharing God’s sacred love within us. So how do we help our children develop that awareness and response? How do we help them develop a faith life? I can think of three ways: establish a Christian environment, honor Catholic traditions and rituals, and witness our own openness and response to God’s presence in our lives.

Look around your home for just a minute.What do you see that tells you yours is a Catholic home? You can create a Catholic environment by making sure that every room has some visible symbol of your faith: a crucifix or cross in each bedroom; a Bible in the living room; Christian DVDs, puzzles or coloring books in the family room; a holy card or prayer on the refrigerator. You don’t have to make your house look like a shrine, but outward signs and symbols can serve as very gentle, quiet ways of communicating our Catholic faith.

Another subtle way of sharing our faith is through traditions and rituals. All families have their own. The ritual of how we go to bed at night or the traditions we establish around Christmas and birthdays are often unique to the families celebrating them. Become more intentional in incorporating some Christian rituals in your daily life. Night prayers, meal blessings, Advent or Lenten wreaths are rituals that can easily be added.

Finally, there is no substitute for the personal witness you offer your child. If you want your children to pray, let them see you pray. If you want your child to believe in a loving God, use words and actions every day that tell your child God is a reality in your own life.

For Family Response:

Ask family members to talk about how they picture God. Make sure you contribute your own image of God.



Media Watch
The Devil Wears Prada
By Frank Frost

There’s no reason why popular film entertainment can’t carry some reasonably heavy moral freight. The moral in The Devil Wears Prada, a devilishly delightful entertainment about the glamour and ambition that drives the fashion industry, seems easy to find.

Andy Sachs (Anne Hathaway) brings all her Midwestern industriousness, honesty and loyalty to bear on an unlikely New York job that she considers just a placeholder while pursuing her real love of journalism. She accepts a second-assistant position unaccountably offered to her by the devil herself, Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep), the editor-in-chief of Runway magazine, bible of the fashion hierarchy.

While she is greeted with derision by veteran employees of the Runway empire because she is oblivious to fashion, we know that Andy will always be true to her boyfriend, Nate (Adrian Grenier), her close artist friends and herself. Beauty, we are sure, is more than skin deep.

It is Miranda’s personal style to abuse her assistants by demanding the impossible of them and to be arbitrary and ruthless with fashion designers. In case we miss the point, each morning Miranda imperiously hurls her coat and purse on Andy’s desk as she makes her grand entrance, while each and every person in the office scrambles in panic upon her arrival to make sure her desires are not only met, but anticipated.

Why does Andy take this consistent abuse? It seems to be a kind of New York test. If she can survive here, she can survive anywhere.

Miranda’s number-one advisor on the magazine, Nigel (Stanley Tucci), transforms Andy into a vision of glamour in the clothes she wears. She learns fast and performs well, and stands in proper awe of glamorous social events she is asked to attend. At one such event she meets Christian (Simon Baker), a successful writer she has long admired, and a hunk on the make. She resists her first temptation to spend more time with Christian instead of going home to Nate, but we can see that the tide has turned and she is going to face more difficult choices.

The big test comes at the world’s fashion summit in Paris, where Andy is promoted to first assistant and where she comes to understand and care about Miranda. In turn, Miranda discovers a worthy protégé in Andy, a mirror of her own steely ambition.Will Andy choose this new life she never imagined, or will loyalty to her old life and friends win out?

Whatever the final choice, the viewer is likely to feel scammed about the moral of the movie. This “devil” Miranda turns out to be a vulnerable human being, and not so evil after all. And ambition makes no real demands of conscience on Andy. She faces choices not much different from those of any young career person—work long hours, or spend more time with those you love.

For Media Watch:

What values do you find in this film?



SAINTS AND HEROES AMONG US
By Judy Ball

St. Jerome (345-420)

The words Scripture and scholar are most often connected with St. Jerome. Coming in a close second are bad and temper. Yes, Jerome had a sharp tongue (and pen). He was quick to see the shortcomings of others, but he could spot his own as well.

Born in the Balkans, Jerome was a gifted student who was always in search of the best teachers he could find. He had a special facility for languages, and mastered Latin, Greek, Hebrew and Chaldaic. He was on his way to living the isolated life of a scholar when he encountered God in a powerful dream.When Jerome awoke, he resolved to become a monk and retire to the desert in order to study the Word of God in a new, deeper way.

Not long after his ordination, he was chosen personal secretary to Pope Damasus I—and was quickly spotted as the very person the Church needed to translate the Old Testament from Hebrew to Latin. Jerome was commissioned to produce a good, solid, official Latin text of the Gospels for liturgical use. He also produced a Latin translation of the Psalms and other Old Testament books along with biblical commentaries. He immersed himself in the translation project for much of his life.

When Pope Damasus died, Jerome left Rome and made his way to the land of Jesus’ birth to meditate on the master’s life. He finally settled in Bethlehem, where he lived in the cave believed to have been the birthplace of Christ. He continued his scholarly work and also ministered to pilgrims. He died there in 420.

Almost 900 years later, Jerome was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church. He is the patron saint of those who study Sacred Scripture. His feast is September 30.

Douglas Leal

Sitting beside his mother in church years ago, young Douglas Leal envied the altar servers. “I’d like to be up there,” he whispered to her. His moment came when he reached the fourth grade. Since then, he’s had many more moments—and helped others with theirs as well.

A liturgy trainer as well as an actor and director, Douglas believes in effective communication—whether the “stage” is in front of a parish community or a theater audience. His love for both liturgy and theater meets in his book Stop Reading and Start Proclaiming! It offers simple tips for anyone whose ministry includes sharing the Word of God.

“The Gospels aren’t just a collection of words but a source of life,” said Douglas, whose interest in liturgy planning began back in high school. “To proclaim rather than simply read,” he said, “means to take the life within the Word and make it available fully to the community,” helping its members “hear in a way that can really touch them.”

This involves extensive preparation and practice, understanding what the readings are about, eye contact with the congregation and—when the content of the reading calls for it—smiling. The most familiar Gospel passages can come alive and touch people in new ways when the Word is truly proclaimed, said Douglas, who also serves as director of ministries at St. Sebastian Church in San Jose, California.

For an actor, applause from an audience is a sign of success. For one who proclaims the Word, approval is expressed differently, said Douglas. It comes in the attention of the members of the community as they hear the words and let them penetrate their hearts and their lives.

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