Salvation is like a perfect marriage.
Ask yourself: “Is a perfect marriage a fifty-fifty proposition?” I would say the answer is positively not. Why should each in the relationship give only fifty percent of themselves? No, the only way to make a marriage work is for each involved in the covenant bond to give 100% of themselves, without holding back. In fact, this is the definition of a covenant. It is an exchange of persons.
How many marriages have we all watched helplessly as they disintegrated, because of the selfishness of one or both spouses? I have seen too many to number.
In the act of marital love, each of the beloved is giving themselves totally, without reserve, to the other. It is an act of total commitment and trust; each leaves themselves totally vulnerable to the other. I am yours and you are mine.
Why is this what I think salvation is like?
Because in the act of total self-emptying, self-denial, and sacrifice of the Cross, the God-made-man gave Himself totally, without reserve, for us. He did His part to make our marriage a success. However, that doesn’t answer the question of what we as the bride must do to make the marriage a success. The answer is reflected in human marriage. For a marriage to work, both must give all of themselves. But what we lack in gift-giving ability, God makes up the difference.
The Cross was an event that happened one time on a hill outside of Jerusalem. He gave Himself for us then. However, the grace which flows from that event is given to all of us as individuals — right here and right now.
That is what the Mass and the sacraments are. They flow, and derive their efficacy, from the Cross and from nowhere else. They are His way of giving Himself to us in our own personal and individual lives, as the Bridegroom who never ceases to hold anything back from His bride. They are the fruit of the tree of the Cross.
He gave Himself completely for us so that He can now give Himself completely to us. He gives us His life in Baptism and Communion. He forgives our unfaithfulness in Reconciliation. He heals our wounds in the Anointing of the Sick. He gives us a foretaste of life with Him in the bliss of the marital act when the two become one — when they give each other to themselves without reserve. God gives us His life in the sacraments in the here and now, where our salvation works out (Philippians 2:12-13).
In a sense, all of our souls are “female” to God. When He gives Himself to us, and when we receive the gift, then we bring forth life … both within ourselves and into the world around us when we share the gift.