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Sunday, March 25, 2007

Running the race

In my conversations with Lito at extranos about his concerns regarding Catholics trying to buy their salvation with works (something which the Catholic Church does not teach but many misconstrue to be the case), I sometimes wonder what the point is in arguing about words. I recently read through Jimmy Akin's explanation of the term "justification" in Catholic teaching, and he reminds us that St. Paul exhorted his listeners "to avoid disputing about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers" (2Tim. 2:14, RSV; cf. 1Tim. 6:4).

Lito is only being thorough when he wants me to articulate my attitude concerning justification and works. This morning at Mass I was comforted to find St. Paul in today's readings (Philippians 3:8 - 14) capturing my very Catholic perspective on that:

"All I want is to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and to share his sufferings by reproducing the pattern of his death. That is the way I can hope to take my place in the resurrection of the dead. Not that I have become perfect yet: I have not yet won, but I am still running, trying to capture the prize for which Christ Jesus captured me. I can assure you my brothers, I am far from thinking that I have already won. All I can say is that I forget the past and I strain ahead for what is still to come; I am racing for the finish, for is the prize to which God calls us upwards to receive in Christ Jesus."

Yes, it is Lent, and I can tell a Lutheran that I also wish to share in Christ's sufferings by training my flesh in self-denial. This is something that Christ called us to do. Am I trying therefore to buy my salvation with this self-denial? No. At the foot of the cross in the school of Christ's passion, I simply wish to live the Incarnation in my flesh. To be perfect, as God calls me to be, in our Lord, Jesus Christ.

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