There is a popular saying among some non-Catholic Christian communities, “once saved – always saved.” The idea is that once you have accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior, then no matter what you do, you will still go to Heaven,
This sounds nice but it is actually contrary to Christianity.
God does not want slaves, he wants friends, and friendship is never automatic, friendship requires work. Our friendship with God starts at our baptism and it grows as we get to know Christ, and discover His plan for our lives. With the help of God's grace we strive to live as He wants us to live. But we are free to reject this offer of friendship. We are free because God loves us and wants our love, a love that we freely give.
Friendship can be broken by a single act of betrayal or disloyalty. Friendship can slowly disintegrate if we do not pay enough attention to it. Our friendship with Christ is as real as our temporal friendships, it is also just as fragile.
It may be even more vulnerable because the devil wants to make it hard for us to maintain that friendship.
We are stubborn and selfish sheep. We make it all too easy for the devil to tempt us away from our friendship with God. That's why Paul and Barnabas, apostles spreading the good news, urged people to remain faithful to the grace of God. That's why the saints in Heaven are described as having survived a time of great distress.
Barnabas and Paul travelled from city to city. Most likely they would start at the local synagogue and announce that the Messiah had finally come. They would spend the sabbath there, preaching. They spend the following week talking to individuals and families so that by the time the sabbath comes around again, the synagogue is crammed with people who want to hear them.
They must have been thrilled with their success. But then the leaders of the synagogue become jealous, afraid the the apostles will steal their power and authority. A shouting match breaks out and the two saints are kicked out. They are locked out of the group of “movers and shakers.”
How do they react? Do they complain? Do they give up? No, they just started preaching to the Gentiles instead, confident that God would bless their efforts.
They were successful at this as well and began to attract people from the whole region. But again, as they grew more popular, they were perceived as a threat by those in power. An organized resistance is raised against them and they are expelled from the entire region.
But Our Lord prepared them for this, when they are rejected for speaking the Truth, they simply knock the dust of that region off their sandals, and head to the next city.
We see this pattern of opposition even today. When a person, or a ministry, or a parish begins to gain some ground for God, it is attacked. But suffering and opposition are daily bread for Christians, just s they were for Christ. Only by persevering through the cross can we come to the Resurrection; only by enduring Good Friday can we celebrate Easter.
We owe our faith and hope to the perseverance of missionaries who, like Barnabas and Paul, carried the torch of truth and grace courageously, never backing down in the face of difficulties, just as Christ Himself never backed down.
The torch has now been passed to us, God has entrusted the light of His Gospel to us.
Every Christian is a missionary. Each one of us is called to bring the light we have received into the lives of those around us, into our communities, work places, families, and schools.
Each one of us has an entirely unique circle of friends and acquaintances, an entirely uniques network of relationships, and an entirely unique set of skills to reach them. If we strive every day to live as Christ taught us, giving a constant example of kindness, courage, concern for others, forgiveness, responsibility, and hard work, we will spread the light. If we stay attentive to opportunities that God sends us to speak clearly and encouragingly to others about the Gospel, to invite them to follow Christ, we will spread the light, but only if we persevere in the face of the obstacles the devil throws up to discourage us.
If we persevere, grace will win in the end, it always does.