by Kathryn Marcellino, OCDS
Holy Week begins Palm Sunday and goes through Holy Saturday. During this week we are reminded in the Church's liturgy and Mass readings about the passion and death of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. We are reminded that Jesus died for us.
Catechism of the Catholic Church #452: The name Jesus means "God saves". The child born of the Virgin Mary is called Jesus, "for he will save his people from their sins" (Mt 1:21): "there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).We often hear people from various churches asking, "Is Jesus your personal Lord and Savior?" I think this is valid question.
God created the world as good and there was no evil in it. Then Adam and Eve sinned, and sin came into the world and brought along with it physical death, suffering and also closed the gates of Heaven so that no one could enter. Jesus saved the world by dying on the cross as the final and perfect sacrifice to make up sin.
God is both just and merciful. His justice required a perfect sacrifice to make up for sin which was only fully accomplished in his only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. In God's great mercy the second person of the Blessed Trinity, God himself, became man, lived among us, taught us, and then died a painful death so that we can be restored to full fellowship with God and to have the opportunity to go to Heaven someday.
The door is now open to us through Jesus' sacrifice, but there are requirements and they are laid out in Jesus' teachings which are recorded both in the Bible (Sacred Scripture) and through the oral teachings handed down from the apostles (Sacred Tradition).
Jesus, our Savior
Jesus died for our sins and also taught us what we are to do in this life to be saved. The first step is learning what God wants and the second step is doing it. A part of this is accepting Jesus "as my personal Lord and Savior" as some church's like to put it, but there is more involved. For example, Jesus also said we must be baptized "with water and the spirit" to be saved and taught many other things as well.
He also taught that not "many are called, but few are chosen" and the Bible says we are to work out our salvation in "fear and trembling". (This is a different message from our modern culture which makes it seem like just about everyone is going to heaven. This might make us feel nice but it is not really what Jesus said as recorded in the Bible.) There really is something important to be gained or loss and we really do need to take God and "working out" our salvation seriously.
So have we accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior and are we his followers? To examine ourselves on this we could ask ourselves: Who are what are we putting our trust in and love above all else? Is it God or money or people or ourselves or something else? This really takes a little thinking about. For example, what if I lose my job, my spouse or other close relationships, my savings account, my retirement fund, or my health? Do I trust that God will still take care of me in any circumstance? Or am I really putting my trust in those things not as one way God is taking care of me, but as if they are almost like a God in themselves? Job in the Bible lost everything including his health but he trusted God and said that even if God kills him, still he will trust in God. This is what we are also called to do. By the way God restored all Job's possessions and health even greater than before.
Can we really say Jesus is our my Lord and Savior and then not really put Him first in our life as our Savior and Lord above all other things? If anything is above Jesus in our life then that thing is our Lord, but can never be our Savior, as Jesus is the only one who can save us. Our priorities should be God first, everything else second... i.e. loving, trusting and believing in God and doing what he says first, and everything else in second or lower place.
During this time of Holy Week, let's do a little meditation to ask ourselves if we are really accepting Jesus as our Lord and Savior meaning he is really above all else in our lives and that we are trusting in Jesus. We not only look to God/Jesus to save us in the sense of sin but also to God to take care of all our needs as Jesus said he would. We are to be cooperators and co-workers with Jesus and so we help through our actions and work, but all good things come from God and we should look to God for everything and then thank God for all the things he gives us.
Jesus said that "without me you can do nothing" but "with me you can do all things." This applies to this life as well as the next. We might tend to want to be self-sufficient or rely on other people or money or our job or something else, but these won't save us any more than any other idol made with human hands. Unlike some popular ideas we do not make our own reality--there is an objective reality already made by God. It isn't how we want things to be or wishful thinking. God is real and has come to this earth in the person of Jesus Christ to teach us and show us what he wants and how things are. We need to be careful that we are not accepting the popular myth of our society that everyone is going to heaven or that God doesn't exist or that religion is just wishful thinking. Jesus said that to be his follower we must "pick up our cross" and follow him.
During this Holy Week let's take some time to see if we are following the real Jesus or an imaginary one. Taking time to read the Gospels and Catechism of the Catholic Church on these subjects would be a good review or reflection. God really exists. Heaven and hell are real and eternal. Something is really to be lost or gained. There is serious sin and it leads to eternal death if not repented of. Eternity is at stake and we need to play by God's rules not by our rules or popular misconceptions and wishful thinking. If we sin we are slaves to sin. So how are we to be saved? By cooperating with God's grace and help.
We might have some fear of God "as the beginning of wisdom" but we also know from the Bible that as we grow in love of God that "perfect love casts out all fear." Jesus came to save us from our sins and to give us his peace. The old Baltimore Catechism says: "God made man to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy forever with Him in the next." I pray that we all achieve this purpose for which we were created.