Jesus and Satan have an argument as to who is the better computer programmer. This goes on for a few hours until they agree to hold a contest with God as the judge.
They set themselves before their computers and begin. They type furiously for several hours, lines of code streaming up and down the screen.
Seconds before the end of the competition, a bolt of lightning strikes, taking out the electricity. Moments later, the power is restored, and God announces that the contest is over. He asks Satan to show what he has come up with.
Satan is visibly upset, and cries, ‘I have nothing! I lost it all when the power went out.’
‘Very well, then,’ says God, ‘let us see if Jesus fared any better.’
Jesus enters a command, and the screen comes to life in vivid display, the voices of an angelic choir pour forth from the speakers.
Satan is astonished. He stutters, ‘But how? I lost everything, yet Jesus' program is intact! How did he do it?’ God looks up over his glasses and chuckles, ‘Ah you see, Jesus saves.’
Salvation has, rightly, always been the big issue. Who was going to make it, how it was going to happen and when would Christ return in glory have captured the imagination of each generation of believers.
The roots of this thinking can be found in today's Gospel. The earliest Christians, especially the Gentiles, saw that the Jews had been given every opportunity for salvation. They were the Chosen people. They had the Law and the Prophets. They were looking for the Messiah. Jesus, however, did not come as they expected or act as they hoped, so they rejected him and his followers. Within a generation after Jesus' death the Jews were persecuting the Christians and expelling them from the synagogues. The Christians took comfort from saying that in the salvation race the Jews might have started as the favourites, but they had missed the start and were now coming last.
This way of thinking had a strong effect on the Church. While we have always believed in the mercy and love of God, at different times we have been hostile to other religions, other denominations and the secular world. We have often needed to express this in absolute terms about who was going to be saved and, more importantly, who was not! The way we live out this salvation should be irresistible to others. As the folk hymn sings, ‘They will know we are Christians by our love, by our love. Yes, they'll know we are Christians by our love.’ (Richard Leonard SJ)