In the know with Fr. Joe >> Dear Fr. Joe: What does it mean to be "saved"? Q. Some guys came to my door the other day and asked me a lot of questions about whether or not I was “saved.” Am I saved? What exactly does that mean? A. The short answer is “yes,” but I get paid by the word, so I’m going to go ahead and break it down a bit. The dictionary defines “saved” as “to keep safe or rescue from harm or danger.” When a person asks you if you’ve been saved, they usually are asking if you’ve been saved from sin and death so that you can, someday, enter heaven. It’s a rather presumptuous, though generally well-intended, question. So how does a Catholic answer that? First things first: You are saved. I am saved. Everybody is saved. That’s the good news. Here’s how that happened. We start with disobedience: God said “Don’t” and we did. It’s that horribly simple. The moment that happened, sin and death entered the world and began to transform it in the most horrible way possible. The results were disastrous. Even our attempts to overcome this sin and still love God led to – you guessed it – more sin. Paul describes it perfectly in his letter to the Romans: In order not to sin, he would obey the law as best he could. In doing that, he became self-righteous and prideful – yikes! What a disaster. How dreadful our lives would be if not for what happened next. Jesus came to earth – praise God! Jesus didn’t just come to earth; in the words of Pope John Paul II, he “entered fully into the human experience and transformed it.” He did not sin and was perfectly obedient to God. That was true of no one in history before Jesus. So, at 33, Jesus was a perfect sacrifice, ready to be offered to God. In the same way that one man’s sin condemned us, one man’s obedience was to save us. Jesus took our sin on his shoulders and put it to death with himself on the cross. If you can, check out Isaiah 53, as well as the passion accounts in the Gospels. This should give you a good, as well as poetic, sense of how horribly beautiful the actions of Jesus were. That would’ve been enough, I assure you, but Jesus wasn’t finished. Next, he conquered the other enemy – death. All our hate, all our arrogance, all our sin put Jesus to death, but his love overwhelmed those things and brought him out of the grave, opening the way for you and me, God willing, to someday walk through the gates of heaven. So, here we are – saved people, all of us. But that doesn’t close the issue. God still says “Don’t” and we do. He still says “Do” and we don’t. God paid the price, the debt that was owed – and that is great news, that is why we are saved. The question is, what are we prepared to do about it? Think about it this way – we were drowning and God jumped in the water, swam over and put us on his back, thereby saving us. In order to stay saved, we have to do one thing: We must hold on. How do we hold on? We hold on by surrendering our hearts and minds to Jesus. We hold on by conforming our hearts and wills to Christ. We hold on by praying, being obedient and loving as Jesus did. We hold on when we repent. We hold on when we forgive. Holding on is not something you can or should try to do by yourself: God created us to be dependent. Call on him, call on the Holy Spirit. Hold on. Enjoy another day in God’s presence.