In the Gospel According to St. Matthew (vs. 19:16), a man approaches Jesus with a question that many Christians in the modern age have asked in one form or another:
At that time someone came to Jesus and said, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?”
The modern equivalent is something like, “What do I need to do to be saved?”
The modern answer vary but include ideas like believe, or have a conversion experience, or be baptized, or obey God’s laws, or be good, or evangelize, or repent, or take up your cross, or … well the list goes on. Poet and author Scott Cairns offers us this further thought:
“Salvation is a continuing process of being redeemed; it is our recovery from our chronic separation from God, both now and ever, and it includes our becoming increasingly aware of Who our God is. Our miraculous salvation has very little to do with the popular notion of ‘dying and going to heaven,’ and has far more to do with finally living, and with entering the kingdom of God, here and now.” (The End of Suffering: Finding Purpose in Pain, pg. 73)
It might be convenient for each of us if we only had to do one thing and then salvation was guaranteed. And certainly if we had to do only one thing that would make attaining eternal life as simple as buying a ticket. The Christian life however is discipleship – it is not buying a ticket but venturing forth on a lifetime sojourn.
In the charming yet profound Japanese movie Jiro Dreams of Sushi, Jiro makes it clear there is no plateau called perfection. One strives to do better today what one did yesterday. If we follow that philosophy – today I will follow Christ and love others better than I did yesterday – then we come to understand what true discipleship is. Discipleship is discipline, and we are following a discipline to move from one degree of glory to another, not to stay the same as we were yesterday. We are to grow in Christ, grow in love, to be perfect as the Father in Heaven is perfect.
Christ did speak to us as His disciples about our taking up our cross daily in order to follow Him. To be His disciple means not to experience a one time conversion event, but to be willing to live for, to suffer for, and even to die for Him each day of our lives.
We have to live for Him and for our brothers and sisters in Christ and for the salvation of the world. We don’t become Christian to abandon the world or to proclaim it evil. God so loved the world that He send His Son into the world. We are here to bring salvation to the world and to transfigure it.
And daily we have to repent of our sins, love one another as Christ loved us, be born again of the Spirit, be renewed in our minds, and strive to move ever toward the Kingdom of God. We renew our discipleship when we prepare ourselves for the sacraments of Confession and Communion. This is part of our daily striving for Christ.
Salvation is not a one time event but uniting our lives to Christ both now and unto the ages of ages.