First of all, I just want to start my talk this morning by saying how grateful I am to be able to be here with all of you for this Life in the Spirit seminar. I know how powerful this day can be. A little over a year ago, I brought one of these seminars to my previous parish of Holy Name of Jesus. In the weeks and months that followed, it was remarkable to be able to see the fruit of that day in so many of the people who attended. It’s a day that will challenge you but also help you to recognize how the Holy Spirit is seeking to use each of you in unique and powerful ways. So, my encouragement to each of you is to be open to whatever the Holy Spirit wants to offer you today.

Each of us as baptized sons and daughters of the Father have already received such a tremendous outpouring of the Holy Spirit into our hearts. That was then affirmed and completed in us during the Sacrament of Confirmation. But, the Holy Spirit doesn’t just act in those Sacraments. He doesn’t stop working in us or stop giving us the gifts that we need. He wants to give us so much more each and every day of our lives. We just have to be receptive to those gifts. We have to know how the Holy Spirit acts and how He is inviting us to respond to the various invitations that He puts on our hearts. That’s what today is all about. So again, continue to ask for that grace of opening your hearts and allowing the Holy Spirit to show you how He wants to utilize you to bring glory to the Father, to be the hands of Jesus in the world, to be the instruments that bring others to an encounter with the Lord.

Recap and Introduction – In this first talk this morning, Fr. Shenoy spoke about God’s Love. In a sense, the topic of our second talk, which is Salvation, is very closely related to that first talk. In a sense, this particular talk will focus on what God’s love has offered to us through the sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross…as Catholic Christians, we know that gift is everlasting communion with the Father, the ability to dwell with God forever. So this talk will focus on what salvation is and how we are called to respond to it in the midst of living in the world that can be more than a bit crazy from time to time.

God Saves – A very basic definition of salvation is “God saves.” And that’s exactly what the Father accomplished in sending Jesus into the world, to bring about that salvation, to liberate us from the chains of slavery to sin and death. Salvation is God’s way of delivering all of humanity from sin and its consequences. But the very act of salvation wasn’t a one time thing…it is something that is ongoing. It continues to happen in our own age.

Presence of Sin in the World – But why is salvation needed? We kind of get the answer to that question in what salvation offers – freedom and liberation from sin. But why is sin present in the world?

We know that God originally created us to live in harmony with Him. If we look back to the creation narrative in Genesis, God created Adam and Eve to live in the Garden of Eden with Him for all eternity. It was the perfect paradise. There was no illness, there was no famine, there was no suffering. But we know what happened. If you’ve been going to daily Mass over the last couple of weeks, we have been reminded of that story as we lead up to the beginning of the Lenten season.

Genesis 3 shares with us the story of the fall of our first parents when Adam and Eve went against God’s command to not eat the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. They were tricked by the Evil One and gave into the temptation to have that wisdom, to have that knowledge.

The woman saw that the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eyes, and the tree was desirable for gaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and ate it; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves. When they heard the sound of the LORD God walking about in the garden at the breezy time of the day, the man and his wife hid themselves from the LORD God among the trees of the garden.

Genesis 3:6-8

Since then, we have had a major problem in the world. The temptation since has been to continue seeking to hide from the Lord. We continue to battle against good and evil. We continue to fall into sin. The world continues to be a mess.

The World is a Mess – There is something seriously wrong in the world – not just society as a whole, but even within our individual lives. All we have to do is turn on the television to see it; we simply have to watch the news each day, read the newspaper, or scroll through social media to see how this battle with sin continues to rage. Maybe we don’t even need to do that! So often we see it in the lives of many around us – our family members, friends, coworkers…even within ourselves.

We look out and see war raging in Ukraine. We see extreme poverty in many places of the world, especially in Africa and South America. Over the last several years, we have been trying to overcome the ongoing problem of disease and illness as we have started to emerge out of COVID. We have also seen in recent times riots in many places around the world, including in our own country. We continue to fight against racial injustice. We see the exploitation of others, including children. Sex trafficking continues throughout many regions of the world. Not only that, but we see many struggling to overcome addiction, loneliness, depression, anxiety. So often many of us struggle with personal insecurities. So many of our young people are seeking direction, mission, purpose. There is so much mistrust toward the Church, toward ourselves, others, government institutions. We are world living in fear and suspicion.

But again – this isn’t how things were originally created to be. This isn’t in God’s original plan for us.

God Comes to Restore – God originally made the world to be a place of peace, a place of serenity, a place governed by justice and true happiness. It was meant to be a place where He would reign. Despite that being lost by the First Fall, the Good News is that the Father still wants the world to be how He initially intended it to be. How do we know that? What does Scripture tell us?

In the second chapter of the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, this is what we’re told:

In days to come,

The mountain of the LORD’s house

shall be established as the highest mountain

and raised above the hills.

All nations shall stream toward it.

Many peoples shall come and say:

“Come, let us go up to the LORD’s mountain,

to the house of the God of Jacob,

That he may instruct us in his ways,

and we may walk in his paths.”

For from Zion shall go forth instruction,

and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.

He shall judge between the nations,

and set terms for many peoples.

They shall beat their swords into plowshares

and their spears into pruning hooks;

One nation shall not raise the sword against another,

nor shall they train for war again.

House of Jacob, come,

let us walk in the light of the LORD!

Isaiah 2:1-5

The Lord wants to reestablish His kingdom. He wants it to reign on the earth. He wants that peace, that tranquility, that serenity to return. In the Book of Revelation, we read this:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth. The former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. I also saw the holy city, a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race. He will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, [for] the old order has passed away.” The one who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.”

Revelation 21:1-5

What does that tell us? It tells us that God comes to restore. He comes to bring liberation. He comes to bring freedom. He comes to bring salvation. Not just to the world itself…but also to us individually. But we have to remember that it’s God’s action that brings that salvation.

It is God’s Action – The cause of what is wrong in the world is more than what humanity can handle or solve on our own. The presence of Satan, sin, the dominion of darkness are all things that only God can bring a resolution to…that God already has brought a resolution to. Do we cooperate with that? Absolutely. But ultimately, without the Lord, those efforts will fall short. We are not our own Messiah’s. We must remember that.

From the very beginning, we have been trying to overcome these things.

  • People have sought liberation and freedom within education, yet even the most highly educated people continue to struggle within their own lives. They don’t have their lives together, so how can they lead others to liberation?
  • Others have devoted every ounce of their energy to being successful in business, striving to make as much money as they could to achieve that freedom. Yet, look at how many business executives have failed in their own lives.
  • Various forms of religion have been developed by human beings to try to explain things that are happening in the world and to try to achieve a sense of harmony and peace. Yoga, Buddhism, transcendental meditation, and the list goes on. Yet, all of these things ultimately fail to satisfy the deepest desires of the human heart.
  • Even today, so many are saying that true liberation can be found in freedom of expression, in relativism (the heresy of our day that says truth is based on individual wants and desires), in sexual autonomy.
  • Even within Christianity, individuals have exploited tenets of our faith or various religious practices and put a different spin on them, saying that salvation can only be achieved if do a certain number of tasks or prayers.

Each of these examples are ways in which human beings have relied on their own wisdom and haven’t been open and receptive to how the Holy Spirit is leading. It is God’s wisdom that is needed!

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,

nor are your ways my ways—oracle of the LORD.

For as the heavens are higher than the earth,

so are my ways higher than your ways,

my thoughts higher than your thoughts.

Isaiah 55:8-9

God is the only one who can bring about that freedom and salvation. His wisdom far exceeds our wisdom. He knows how the world works; He understands how intricate this world of ours is…because He created it! He fashioned it! He molded it! And because of that, He knows how to restore it to what He originally created it to be.

We Need God’s Wisdom – We need God’s wisdom in order to understand what is behind many of the problems and issues that we face as a society and as individuals. There is much more happening than what the human eye can see. There is a spiritual reality, a spiritual component to things, that we don’t always recognize. In fact, behind all the negative things that have happened in the world and that are continuing to happen is something bigger than what we can handle on our own.

Sin is powerful, it’s pervasive. (Romans 3:9) Every single one of us has sinned; every single one of us struggles with concupiscence, struggles to overcome the effects of sin. We have all been deprived of the glory of God in some way because of that sin (Romans 3:23). We continue to struggle against the powers of darkness (Colossians 1:13). As we are reminded in the Letter to the Ephesians:

For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens. (6:12)

That is the reality! That struggle between good and evil will always be there, until the Lord returns.

Satan Exists – In previous years, many in our world have tried to convince us that Satan doesn’t exist, that there is not some evil force that is working behind the scenes to lead people of faith down the wrong path. Sadly, that belief has even infiltrated the Church – what is even more tragic is that it has even been promoted by some of our bishops. But Scripture is very clear! Satan absolutely exists and he is, in fact, working behind the scenes to lead us down the path to hell.

The Book of Revelation speaks about the origins of the Evil One and how he came to have dominion over the world (12:7-9). He was originally the angel of light that disobeyed the Lord, caused war within heaven, lost that war and was cast down into the world. He is mentioned in a number of the books of the Old Testament. All of the writers of the New Testament mention him. Satan is very much real. And because of that, we are not truly free; we are in spiritual bondage; we are in a battle for our souls constantly.

You were dead in your transgressions and sins in which you once lived following the age of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the disobedient. All of us once lived among them in the desires of our flesh, following the wishes of the flesh and the impulses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like the rest. (Ephesians 2:1-3)

This is continuing to happen today. The Evil One is continuing to work and even becoming more bold in his actions against us. Again, just look at what has been happening in the world in our day and age. Satan isn’t even hiding anymore. He’s out in the wide open. All we have to do is open our eyes.

We Need the Lord – But this is also how we know that we need the Lord. In order to be brought to that place of peace, that place of security; in order to achieve justice and to live in the truth, in order to be victorious in the battle against evil, we must rely on the Lord. It is the Lord who delivers us. It is under the rule of God that our lives are changed. When we live from that reality, our lives change. Under the Lord’s guidance, we experience freedom.

In the Letter to the Colossians, we’re reminded: He delivered us from the power of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (1:13-14)

God Sent His Son – The Father sent His Son into the world to break the hold of Satan and to give us new life through His death and resurrection. Jesus is the Christ. Jesus is the Messiah. He is the One who was sent into the world to bring us back to that original experience of peace, justice, and happiness. He is the One who restores the Kingdom of God. He is the One that brings us our salvation. Jesus is the One who was put to the death upon a tree to bring us freedom from sin. In His resurrection, we, too, rose to new life. The Cross of Christ is the bridge that makes it possible for us to return to that everlasting communion with the Father that was lost through the sin of our first parents. Jesus is the New Adam; He restores that harmony, that paradise that once existed.

Because of that sacrifice our futures have been changed. Because of His death, we have been brought to life. And that has to change us. It must result in a change in the way we think, act, live. It must lead us to action. The salvation that Jesus offers is more than just going to heaven…that is the reward of that salvation. But we are required to cooperate with it. It must lead us to a new way of life. And that will be the topic of our next session after lunch.

Origins of the St. Michael Prayer – I want to close this morning with a story that many of us might be familiar with. It’s the story of the origins of the Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel, a story that, I think, shows us the importance of allowing the Lord to be our strength, to rely on the help of the angels and saints, to seek their intercession as we strive to battle against the forces of evil.

Even though we don’t have absolute evidence of the validity of this story, there are many who have shared it based on conversations they had with those who witnessed it. For example, we have the word of a contemporary of Pope Leo XIII “who was a cardinal and knew the Holy Father’s personal secretary,” and an unnamed man who had a short audience with the Pope and wrote about it in a German publication in the years that followed. After making its way to Germany, the account seems to have spread around the world. I think it is safe to say that this was a prophetic vision from the Holy Spirit.

After celebrating Mass one day, Pope Leo XIII was in conference with the Cardinals when suddenly he sank to the floor. Several doctors were summoned at once but found no pulse – the very life seemed to have ebbed away from the fragile and aging body. Suddenly he recovered and said: “What a horrible vision I have been shown!” Some say that he overheard a conversation between God and the Devil in which the Lord gave Satan 100 years to reign over the earth. Others say that the Holy Father saw the ages to come, the seductive powers and ravings of the devils against the Church in every land. No matter what account is true, or even if both were accurate, what we know is that St. Michael appeared in the moment of greatest distress and cast Satan and his cohorts back into the abyss of hell. Whatever the vision was, it caused Pope Leo to write the prayer for the protection and intercession of St. Michael for the universal Church.

So in closing this morning, I’d like us to pray together that prayer and to call upon St. Michael to watch over us in a special way today that we might be protected from the influence of the Evil One.

“Salvation” was a talk given at a Life in the Spirit Seminar at Holy Family Catholic Church in February 2023.

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