Chapter I: From Christ the Evangelizer to the Evangelizing Church
In a masterful way this number captures in a few words the mysterious coordination between God’s grace and man’s efforts in the salvation of every person. It begins with the words, “The kingdom and its salvation are available as a gracious gift of mercy to any and every man.” These gifts are available even to those who do not know the Catholic Church. They can enter into those gifts of God by keeping the commandments as best they know (cf. Mt 19:17).
The gift of participation in the kingdom and the salvation resulting from that participation are “free” gifts of God in the sense that they are given to us without merit on our part. No one can earn them. St. Augustine spoke about this: “You would have suffered eternal death, had he not been born in time. Never would you have been freed from sinful flesh, had he not taken on himself the likeness of sinful flesh. You would have suffered everlasting unhappiness, had it not been for this mercy. You would never have returned to life, had he not shared your death. You would have been lost if he had not hastened to your aid. You would have perished, had he not come” (Sermo 185: PL 38, 997-999; Office of Readings Dec. 24).
Once the gifts of membership in the kingdom and the resulting promise of salvation are given, however, they can be preserved in the individual only by that person’s effort; by “painful effort” this number says, and “by a life lived according to the principles of the Gospel, by renunciation and the cross, by the spirit of the evangelical beatitudes.”
But the desire to live that way is itself a gift from God. It is called repentance. The number describes the gift beautifully: “Above all, a man can attain them [kingdom and salvation] through the complete spiritual self-renewal which the Gospel calls metanoia, that is, a conversion of the whole man in which mind and heart are radically transformed” (Mt 4:17).
This repentance is a work of God and the individual soul. God’s part is to open a man’s eyes to the invisible realities of faith and to incline his heart to accept them as the basis for living his life. If the person does accept them in that spirit, he will be transformed.
Mary is promising to give our whole world just such a grace: “The earth has been covered in darkness because of the lack of faith in the soul of humanity and therefore will experience a great jolt. Following that, people will believe. This jolt, by the power of faith, will create a new world. Through the Flame of Love of the Blessed Virgin, faith will take root in souls, and the face of the earth will be renewed” (The Flame of Love of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Elizabeth Kindelmann, 8 St. Albans Ave., Newtown Square, PA 19073, p. 149). Mary, help of Christians, pray for us.