THE KEY TO GAINING TOTAL SALVATION AND CONVERSION
First Reading: Wisdom 11:22-12:2; Second Reading: 2 Thessalonians 1:11-2:2 ; Gospel: Luke 19:1-10
The Almighty God loves and cares for all His creatures unconditionally. He does not hate or abandon any of them, even when they misbehave or offend Him. However, His desire has always been that everyone repents, and be totally converted in mind and heart so as to gain salvation (2 Chronicles 7:14).
Meanwhile, the first reading of today also affirms that God loves all His creatures, and does not hate any of them. Although He is merciful to all and overlooks their sins, that they may repent. Yet, He corrects little by little those who trespass and reminds and warns them of the things wherein they sin, that they may be freed from wickedness and gain salvation (Ephesians 2:4-9). So, what is salvation? What are the benefits of gaining Salvation? How do we gain salvation?
MEANING OF SALVATION?
Salvation simply means deliverance or freedom from sin and its consequences. In other words, it is a state of being saved from eternal damnation.
BENEFITS OF GAINING SALVATION
By the virtue of our baptism, we have obtained the salvation wrought for us through the death of our Lord Jesus Christ by the Power of the Holy Spirit. Hence, we have been adopted as sons and daughters of the Most High God. As the scripture says, “What you received was not the spirit of slavery to bring you back into fear; you received the Spirit of adoption, enabling us to cry out, ‘Abba, Father! The Spirit Himself joins with our spirit to bear witness that we are children of God. And if we are children, then we are heirs, heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ, provided that we share his suffering, so as to share his glory (Romans 8:15-17). Hence, salvation engenders inner peace of mind and courage to persevere in difficult circumstances.
HOW DO WE GAIN SALVATION?
Certainly, Jesus Christ Has saved us from eternal damnation through His passion, death, and resurrection. As the scripture says, “… He has delivered us from the forces of darkness and transferred us to the Kingdom of His beloved Son, and in Him, we enjoy our freedom, the forgiveness of sin” (Colossians 1:13-14).
However, in as much as Christ Has redeemed us, there should be a yearning or burning desire to have a special encounter with God on a daily basis for total transformation, conversion, and thus salvation (Philippians 2:12). We should not allow ourselves to be burdened again by any yoke of slavery (Galatians 5:1). Rather we should work very hard to remain free from sin by constantly going for confession whenever we fall (1 John 1:9).
In the Gospel, we see Zacchaeus as an example of a sinner who desires to draw close to Christ and does something about it. He was a very rich man, but restless because some of his riches were obtained through fraudulence. However, when he realized his predicaments, he did not allow any obstacle to deter him, rather he swallowed his pride and made conscientious efforts to have an encounter with Jesus Christ.
Undoubtedly, Zacchaeus gained his total salvation and conversion through almsgiving and restitution. When he encountered the Power of Christ, He exclaimed: “Behold, LORD, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold!” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:8-10).
Most importantly, our encounter with Jesus Christ on a daily basis should enable us to become better persons. When we truly seek Him in truth and in spirit, there should be genuine repentance as well as a conversion that will be ongoing within us. If there is no repentance and conversion in our lives, then we have not really encountered God in a very special way. For one cannot genuinely encounter Jesus Christ and yet remains unrepentant.
Moreover, Zacchaeus’ initiative to climb the sycamore tree in order to meet Jesus Christ implies that a sinner must be remorseful, and then show serious desire and interest to turn and get to a place where he or she can be seen by God. So, what is your own sycamore tree to climb? It could be praying in the Church during Holy Mass, Visitation of the Holy Eucharist, Constant Confessions, listening to the Word of God or reading the Bible or homilies/ reflections like this, etc.
Furthermore, even when we have confessed our sins, we must be sure that we are free from any form of fraudulence so as to gain our total salvation. We can be totally free by returning whatsoever that does not belong to us to the owners if any. Also, we should eschew any form of distractions accruing from human beings, circumstances, or the vicissitudes of life.
In the second reading, St. Paul urges us not to be quickly shaken in mind or excited, either by spirit or by word. He prays that God may make us worthy of His call, and may fulfill every good resolve and work of faith by His power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified us (2 Thessalonians 1:11-12).
Brethren, I am happy to remind you that the Almighty God still loves and cares for you unconditionally. He does not condemn anyone because he or she is a sinner (Isaiah 43:25). Rather, He desires that everyone repents by making sincere efforts to return to Him, and be totally converted in mind and heart so as to gain salvation like Zacchaeus or the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:1-15).
Finally, God wants to dwell within our house (hearts) and dine with us just like He did for Zacchaeus, and thus he was totally transformed and converted. Hence, we will surely gain our total salvation and conversion of mind and heart when we continually and genuinely seek Jesus Christ daily, and be open to being sought by Him. For He still knocks at the door of our house always (Revelation 3:20).
Moreover, Zacchaeus did not allow any obstacle to deter him from encountering Jesus Christ, rather he climbed a sycamore tree. Therefore, I enjoin you to identify your own sycamore trees, and climb on them on a daily basis all the days of your life, in order to encounter Jesus Christ, for total salvation and conversion.
May the Almighty God have mercy on you, and may the Holy Spirit enable you to always identify the sycamore tree that will link you to God so as to gain total salvation and conversion at the end, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen!
Peace of Christ be with you…
Rev. Fr. Ben Okala, C.S.Sp.