"God indeed is my savior; I am confident and unafraid. My strength and my courage is the LORD, and he has been my savior. With joy you will draw water at the fountain of salvation." Isaiah 12: 2-3
When I was growing up my family took a trip each year to Salem, OR to go to the eye doctor. You only got to go on this trip if you couldn’t see very well, so I remember the year I finally got to go. I was in 7th grade, and couldn’t see the black board at school anymore, so it was time for me to get glasses. On the way to Salem we passed a billboard that I will never forget. It said, "Where will you spend eternity?" It scared me, because I didn’t know the answer to the question!
I was being raised catholic, and was a very good student at catechism classes, which I loved. But somehow in those classes I caught the notion that I had to earn my way to heaven. As the years went by and I grew up and went on to college and then married and started a family, the message on that billboard continued to haunt me. I was living my faith, but I sincerely believed I might go to hell.
Finally, in a women’s bible study, I heard on a tape, "Salvation is a free gift. There is nothing you can do to earn it." I said, rewind the tape, play it again! They did, and I heard again words that set me free: "Salvation is a free gift. There is nothing you can do to earn it." As the truth of those words began to sink in, I found such relief! I learned that Jesus paid the debt for me, and that my part was to receive that gift and then live my life in gratitude for such an awesome gift!
We can’t earn our way to heaven, but we are still called to strive to be holy and to live a life of compassion and service. I do good deeds not to gain merit, but out of love for the one who gave His life and His all for me. Thank you Lord for the amazing gift of salvation. May we rejoice everyday and live the abundant life that Jesus died to give us!
Janice Carleton and her husband Jim live in Portland, OR and partner with Passionist Fr. Cedric Pisegna in Fr. Cedric Ministries. Janice also leads women’s retreats. She is the mother of 4 grown children and grandmother of 2, soon to be 3.