An article, several years ago circulated in religious newspapers,  told of a famous Japanese artist who had contacted Christian missionaries to inquire about a ticket to heaven.  He was a very old man who knew that death could not be far away.  He had heard that Jesus had tickets to heaven, and he wanted to purchase one.

                None of us would laugh at the old man for wanting to go to heaven.  We all want to do that, and  we can understand that the missionaries would be pleased that a famous artist had expressed an interest in Christianity.  But to think of a relationship with Jesus in terms of a ticket to heaven is another matter.  Yet to many people, that is the primary meaning of salvation.

                In the Bible, the word has a much broader application.  There it speaks of deliverance from enemies, of rescue from problems, of having been lost and then being found.

                If you and I will take an honest look at our own lives, we will see that we are often in the same condition.  We don’t know where to turn or what to do.  We are lost.  We don’t need a ticket to heaven so much as we need someone to show us the way here and now.  And that is the kind of help that Jesus offers us.      

                This is good news for a person who feels lost – to know that Jesus is already out there searching for him or her.  And always it is Jesus that does most of the travelling and makes most of the effort, not the person who is lost. 

                Remember that true religion is not man’s search for the good life, important as that may be.  It is our response to God who seeks us.  It is not an argument for God, but a response to God’s love. 

                This does not mean that you and I are free to sit on our hands and do nothing.  It is important for you and me to reach out toward God.  But that is not the essence of Christianity.  When the New Testament speaks of salvation, it means not that we have found God, but that God has found us.

                Now the cross is the focus of our faith.  We gather around it in worship.  We celebrate it in the Mass.  As we take communion, we remember the words of Jesus: “This is my body, broken for you.”  The cross is a proclamation that God does not stand aloof from all our suffering.  He got involved and paid the price.

                God loves us and accepts us just as we are.  The only thing we have to do is accept the fact that we are loved and accepted.  Then with God as our helper and friend, we can start to live a new kind of life.