God’s gift of Salvation – our Response to the Gift

In today’s second reading St Paul tells us “God loved us with so much love that he was generous with his mercy: when we were dead through our sins he brought us to life with Christ …… it is by grace that you have been saved, through faith; not by anything of your own, but by a gift from God; not by anything that you have done, so that nobody can claim the credit” (Eph 2:4f).

What is this gift of God of which Paul speaks? Is it not His love? And all it led Him to do for us in Christ? In a word it is salvation – which is ours through Baptism but we need to claim it. There is a great need in today’s world for effort and perhaps we even feel that we can achieve salvation by our own effort. We may ask ourselves what doing of mine produces holiness? In fact the truth is that nothing which I can do will make me holy. Holiness is God’s gift – a gift freely given. But God will not force our will – instead He waits patiently for our response. With my freedom I must believe – I can believe that God is in fact working His plan of salvation in my life and in my heart – He waits patiently for my response – in faith I open to receive His gift – God’s gift is nothing less than Himself. In today’s Gospel St John reminds us:
“God loved the world so much
that He gave His only Son
so that everyone who believes in Him may not be lost
but may have eternal life”.
(Jn 3:16)

This theme of Salvation is very dear to us Dominicans for Dominic founded his Order of Preachers for ‘preaching and the salvation of souls’. He had a passionate love for the Person of Jesus. Fra Angelico – a famous Dominican artist of the 14th century – loved to portray Dominic at the foot of the Cross contemplating the Saviour’s suffering.

As he contemplated our merciful Saviour Dominic was filled with compassion and from this compassion for the Saviour grew a great desire to spend himself completely so that all people would come to know and appreciate the suffering love of Jesus and respond by opening themselves to receive the free gift of salvation – i.e. be freed from the bondage of sin and live in intimacy with the Holy Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Dominic had experienced the merciful love of Jesus as sheer gift in his own life and desired to share the good news with all who were willing to listen. Rightly do we acclaim his as ‘Preacher of Grace’

Dominic’s constant prayer was for true charity which would enable him to spend himself like the Lord Jesus for the salvation of others. We can be sure that he did not pray this prayer as one of the pure ones who looked down on others – rather I like to think of him as having a keen awareness of his own sinfulness – so keen that he could identify with his brothers and sisters no matter what their need may be. The key experience in Christian life consists in going down into oneself beneath the merciful gaze of God, into those depths that each one of us avoids more or less consciously. The Christian experience of God is characterised by the fact that the encounter with God takes place in the depths of one’s wretchedness. We do not need to become perfect before we cry out to our God for mercy – for our God delights in showing mercy.

God sent His Son into the world
Not to condemn the world
But so that through Him the world might be saved.