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As a person who came from a non-religious background, I can tell you that the most common conception of Christianity among the non-religious and unchurched comes from the pamphlets and door-knocking of fundamentalists asking “Are you saved?” This leads to the misconception among many people that Christianity is fundamentally about a purely selfish concern: somehow ‘buying’ your way out of Hell through faith or devotion.

Hopefully, you realize that this is a fundamentally non-Christian idea. Of course, our salvation is of critical importance. Yet the focus of the Christian life is not simply in ‘being saved’ but in living out our salvation in Christ. We are being saved from something (sin), yet we are also being saved for something.

Just ask people who volunteer in Christian service ministries like St. Vincent de Paul or Bereavement Ministry if they are doing these things in order to ‘be saved.’ Most, I think, would find such a question bizarre. They do these things precisely because they already have a steadfast hope in the salvation that Christ won for them on the cross—they have been given the gift of peace and joy and want to share it with others.

In the second reading this Sunday from the letter to the Hebrews we hear that Jesus endured the cross “for the sake of the joy that lay before him” (Heb. 12:2). Certainly, this wasn’t a joy rooted in His own exaltation alone—before He took on flesh in the womb of the Blessed Virgin He had existed eternally with God the Father in ultimate exaltation and joy. The “joy that lay before him” was rooted in the exaltation of others: those who would come to share in a relationship with the Father through Him.

Likewise, the fullness of Christian life lies not in focusing exclusively on our own salvation, but (like Christ) focusing on the salvation of the world. Our own relationship with God is a prerequisite, but the end is much bigger: that of allowing others to experience a relationship with God though us.

If we are not out to save the world, we are not doing it right.

It won’t always be easy. In this Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus emphasizes that living out a message of love and peace with often bring exactly the opposite: “Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.” (Lk. 12:51). Our efforts to witness to the Gospel both in words and in deeds will be met by resistance. Yet, the Letter to the Hebrews exhorts us to remember the great cloud of witnesses that surrounds us: all of those men and women who have lived out their faith in heroic ways and brought the world so much closer to Christ and His kingdom.

The witness of the saints testifies to the true purpose of the Christian life: to trust so completely in Christ that we are willing to abandon ourselves for others: secure in our faith, hope and love. We, too, are called to that same holiness, to become part of that great assembly.

The question is: are you willing to accept the challenge or are you content to simply ‘get by’ with minimally keeping the commandments and precepts of the Church simply for your own sake?

If we are only ‘getting by’ in our faith life, then we are missing the great joy that Jesus won for us, the joy for which He willingly offered His whole self: the joy of bringing others into relationship with God.