The Gospel is not as much about worthiness as it is about surrender.

Ron Rolheiser, OMI

What God wants from us is not a million acts of virtue, but a million acts of surrender, culminating in one massive surrender of soul, mind, and body. When we have given up everything and are completely helpless to give ourselves anything, as we will all eventually be when we face death, then salvation can be given us.

Salvation can never be taken, earned, or possessed by right. Hence nothing we have or can accumulate in this life – fame, fortune, health, good looks, a good name, or even moral virtue, religious fidelity, personal sanctity, or the practice of social justice – tips God’s hand towards us. What tips God’s hands is helplessness, surrender in grace.

C.S. Lewis in The Great Divorce makes this point in a very simple way. He has a fantasy of some (ten) interviews between someone in heaven trying to coax someone not there to come to heaven. Each of the ten persons seeking entrance into heaven is blocked by some major flaw, pride, anger, idolatry, the incapacity to forgive, shame, lust, and the like. In each case, irrespective of the flaw, the person in heaven keeps telling the other: “All you have to do is to give me your hand and let me lead you there. All you have to do is surrender!”

In the ideal order of things, surrender is for the mature, for the flower that has come to bloom and needs to give off its seed. That is less true of us during the first half of our lives, for we are still building, but it becomes the deepest truth of the second half of life. After forty, understood religiously, life is not about claiming worthiness, or about building things, especially our own egos, but about getting in touch with helplessness.

Age brings us physically to our knees and more and more everything we have so painstakingly built up begins to mean less and less. But that is the order of things: Salvation is not about great achievements, but about a great embrace and, as C.S. Lewis puts it, all we have to do is surrender.

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