friend once asked, "Are we only to be focused on our own personal salvation? Or is there not a bigger picture that we are also called to participate in – in the life of the Church and the world around us, in politics and to stop abortion and the like? Don't we have to do both?"
"Personal salvation" is such a loaded phrase. It has such specific meaning to a large segment of our society that to avoid misunderstanding I don’t use it much. Anyway, is there any such thing as “personal salvation”? Jesus Christ was not incarnate, crucified and resurrected for me, but for us. We are such a ‘me’ centered people that we even reduce salvation to its impact on me alone.
Our beloved Lord, and of course the Fathers, tell us that if we focus first and foremost on fulfilling, as best as we are able, through the Sacraments of the Church, and through prayer and ascesis, the Two Great Commandments, we will be who and what we ought in the greater Church and world around us. “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets," (Mt. 22:37-40).
Part of that change we hope to see made in the world around us is certainly fleshed out as we struggle to love our neighbor – our debtor, he who slaps us on the right cheek and steals our coat...
I honestly don't think we can act dispassionately, in the sense the Fathers use the word, having a divine consequence in the world around us, unless we first put our own place at the foot of God. It is certainly a great mystery. But it is not such a mystery when we consider that unless we ourselves are collectively transformed into the Children of God, we cannot begin to hope that we will have any positive effect on anything. Our present drive to change the Church, to improve the world, to elect the right candidate and promote the right party is all simply borne out of our passions.
I suppose that the Martha and Mary pericope are most instructive in this. “Now it came to pass, as they went, that He [Jesus] entered into a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha received Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His Word. But Martha was encumbered with much serving, and came to Him and said, "Lord, dost Thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? Bid her therefore that she help me." And Jesus answered and said unto her, "Martha, Martha, thou art anxious and troubled about many things. But one thing is needful, and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her," (Lu. 10:38-42).
Perhaps if we strive to be "Marys" we will, without our even knowing it, also become well-balanced "Marthas"? Love to all my brothers and sisters!