Today’s first reading (1 Peter 1:17–21) references God, Our Heavenly Father, “who judges impartially according to each one’s works.” Biblical passages like this capture the attention of many Christians.
Many of us think like this: the purpose of the Christian life is to “be a good person” — so as not to suffer a negative judgment. No human person, we say to ourselves, is perfect. All of us sin. We all suffer. We all struggle. And this is why Jesus is so important: he helps us to become better. Jesus is a savior who saves us from ourselves. He liberates us from our sins, from our failures. Christ empowers us to get through our day, through our week — even through our life.
Admittedly, there are traces of truth in this depiction of the Christian life. Jesus, certainly, does liberate from sin. Moreover, he is certainly the source of spiritual strength, healing, and transformation in the life of the believer. In a word, Jesus does help us.
But the above portrayal of the Christian life is radically insufficient. It does not adequately express what Jesus truly gives us. He gives us something far better than spiritual “self-improvement.” Jesus does not merely help us with ourselves. Jesus gives us himself — totally and completely. Jesus is the gospel — the “good news.” We are not the good news. Salvation is about finding our identity in Jesus.
This is why the first reading (from Saint Peter) references the “precious blood of Christ.” Only in and through and because of Jesus can anyone be saved. Jesus means “Savior.” Consequently, our salvation lies in him. Jesus is not merely the one who saves; Jesus is — himself! — our salvation. Those who find their complete identity in Jesus have no fear of God, Our Heavenly Father, “who judges impartially according to each one’s works.” Why? Because we do not stand alone. Because the life and identity of the Christian lies in the Divine Person and work of Jesus Christ, we stand before the Heavenly Father in Jesus. All that Jesus is and has is ours — if we find our identity in him.
In short, Christianity is not about making room in our identity or in our lives for Jesus. Rather, Christianity — our salvation! — is about placing ourselves fully in the divine life and saving identity of Jesus.
But this brings us to a very practical question: How do we unite ourselves fully to Jesus and find our identity in him? Today’s gospel has the answer (Lk 24:13–35). The two disciples recognize Jesus “in the breaking of bread” — in Holy Communion. We encounter Jesus and find our identity in him through the Seven Sacraments.
Everyone who wants to find Jesus must go to Jesus — in reality. And how do we go to Jesus? We go to Jesus through the Sacraments. In the Sacraments we really and truly — not just symbolically — meet Jesus. In each of the Seven Sacraments Jesus really draws us to himself. Jesus changes us through each of the Sacraments. And all who wish to find their identity in Jesus — to experience his transforming love and power — receive the Sacraments regularly.
Through the Seven Sacraments Jesus does not only come to us. More importantly: Jesus draws us to himself through each Sacrament. In the Sacraments, we find ourselves in Jesus.
And living in Our Savior is our salvation.