By Grace you have been saved (002)

Every day at Renewal Ministries’ office, we pray the Angelus together at noon, as a way of interceding for both our own needs and those of others who request our prayers. I think of it as “bundling” our requests and having the Mother of God present them to Jesus.

After three recitations of the “Hail Mary,” the Angelus concludes with a prayer that we “may by His passion and cross be brought to the glory of His resurrection.” For some years now, I have found these words especially pointed, even poignant. In the end, it is what Jesus has done for us—through His passion, cross, and resurrection—that saves us, even while we do our part.

It reminds me of something Ralph Martin recounts in his book The Fulfillment of All Desire. As St. John of the Cross—the great sixteenth-century man of prayer, prolific writer, and Doctor of the Church—“lay dying the friars reminded him of all he had suffered for God and of all the good work he had done, but his reply silenced them. ‘Father, this is not the time to be thinking of that; it is by the merits of the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ that I hope to be saved.’”

How much hope, strength, consolation, and conviction is to be found in both St. John’s prayer and the Angelus prayer! Yes, in order to be transformed in love (and enter heaven), we must live our lives wholeheartedly for God. But as Ralph also mentions in the book, these things are “necessary but not sufficient.”

In the end, our hope lies in what Christ Himself has done for us. If I were granted a dying wish, I often think it would be this: that I might have the crucifix in my hands in order to kiss his cross one more time in thanksgiving for what He has done for me, in the hope of heaven.

Thus would the last blow be struck against the pride that is constantly seeking to insinuate itself into our lives, and against which St. Paul speaks so eloquently.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do”  (Eph 2:8-10).