The place where we receive the salvation brought by Jesus is the Church, the community of those who, having been incorporated into this new order of relationship begun by Christ, can receive the fullness of the Spirit of Christ.
Understanding this salvific mediation of the Church is an essential help in overcoming all reductionist tendencies. The salvation that God offers us is not achieved with our own individual efforts alone, as neo-Pelagianism would contend. Rather, salvation is found in the relationships that are born from the incarnate Son of God and that form the communion of the Church.
Because the grace that Christ gives us is not a merely interior salvation, as the neo-Gnostic vision claims, and introduces us into concrete relationships that He Himself has lived, the Church is a visible community.
In her we touch the flesh of Jesus, especially in our poorest and most suffering brothers and sisters. Hence, the salvific mediation of the Church, “the universal sacrament of salvation”, assures us that salvation does not consist in the self-realization of the isolated individual, nor in an interior fusion of the individual with the divine. Rather, salvation consists in being incorporated into a communion of persons that participates in the communion of the Trinity.
Both the individualistic and the merely interior visions of salvation contradict the sacramental economy through which God willed to save the human person.
The participation, in the Church, in the new order of relationships begun by Jesus occurs by means of the sacraments, of which Baptism is the door, and the Eucharist is the source and the summit. In this, the inconsistency of the claims to self-salvation that depend on human efforts alone can be seen.
Against this, the Faith confesses that we are saved by means of Baptism, which seals upon us the indelible character of belonging to Christ and to the Church, from which derives the transformation of the way of living our relationships with God, with other men and women, and with creation.
Thus, purified from original, and all other sins, we are called to a new existence conforming to Christ. With the grace of the seven sacraments, believers continually grow and are spiritually renewed, especially when the journey becomes more difficult.
When they abandon their love for Christ by sinning, believers can be re-introduced into the order of relationships begun by Christ in the sacrament of Penance, allowing them to again walk as He did. In this way, we look with hope toward the Last Judgement, in which each person will be judged on the concreteness of his or her love, especially regarding the weakest.
The salvific sacramental economy is also opposed to trends that propose a merely interior salvation. Gnosticism, indeed, associates itself with a negative view of the created order, which is understood as a limitation on the absolute freedom of the human spirit. Consequently, salvation is understood as freedom from the body and from the concrete relationships in which a person lives.
In as much as we are saved “by means of offering the body of Jesus Christ”, true salvation, contrary to being a liberation from the body, also includes its sanctification.
The human body was shaped by God, who inscribed within it a language that invites the human person to recognize the gifts of the Creator and to live in communion with one’s brothers and sisters.
By his Incarnation and his paschal mystery, the Savior re-established and renewed this original language and communicated it in the economy of the sacraments. Thanks to the sacraments, Christians are able to live in fidelity to the flesh of Christ and, as a result, in fidelity to the concrete order of relationships that He gave us. This order of relationality requires, in a particular way, the care of all suffering humanity through the spiritual and corporal works of mercy.
Conclusion: communicating the faith, in expectation of the Savior
The awareness of the fullness of life into which Christ the Savior introduces us propels Christians onward in the mission of announcing to all the joy and light of the Gospel.
In this work, Christians must also be prepared to establish a sincere and constructive dialogue with believers of other religions, confident that God can lead “all men of good will in whose hearts grace works in an unseen way” towards salvation in Christ. While dedicating herself with all of her efforts to evangelization, the Church continues to invoke the definitive coming of the Savior, since it is “in hope that we are saved”.
The salvation of men and women will be complete only when, after having conquered the last enemy, death, we will participate fully in the glory of the risen Jesus, who will bring to fullness our relationship with God, with our brothers and sisters, and with all of creation.
Total salvation, of the body and of the soul, is the final destiny to which God calls all of humanity. Founded in faith, sustained by hope, and working in charity, with the example of Mary, Mother of the Savior and first among the saved, we are certain that “our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we also await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will change our lowly body to conform with his glorified body by the power that enables Him also to bring all things into subjection to Himself”.