Only God saves; only God forgives sins; from God alone comes grace. Blessed be God for His mercy!
And here is a greater mystery. God took a physical body in the Incarnation; and God took a mystical Body in the Church. What a man uses his body to do is assuredly the work of the man: no one would watch a lifeguard save someone’s life and say, “it wasn’t the lifeguard who saved him, but the lifeguard’s hand!”
It was the work of Christ that, in His physical body, He died and made atonement for our sins. And it is the work of Christ that, in His mystical Body, He applies the grace of that redemption through the Sacraments and sanctifies us in our daily lives.
in earthen vessels
Indeed, such an economy of salvation only showcases the work of God. God took on a physical, temporal, frail, subject-to-temptation body to redeem us; God established a physical, temporal, frail, subject-to-temptation Church to apply the graces of that redemption to every successive age. Just as He demonstrated the unimaginable power of His grace by using His Humanity as the means of salvation, so He demonstrates it in the Sacraments by using our humanity and the common things of our lives to continue offering that salvation to the world.
Satan did not prevail over Christ–and the gates of his kingdom will not prevail over the gates of ours.
How great the God who would work through our own flesh to save us!
You led your people like a flock
And so He has always done.
After all, God could have vaporized Pharaoh and caused His people to wake up in the Promised Land; instead, He asked the most unlikely man imaginable to lead his people out of Egypt.
He who could have created the children of the promise out of nothing chose rather to involve a man: though He could have raised up children from the stones, He raised them up from Abraham.
He who could have wiped out sin with a thought and saved the faithful without their help called Noah to build a boat.
And He Who could have peopled the world and perfected the garden with a word instead called a man and a woman to share in His fruitfulness and His stewardship of creation.
So this is our God. Salvation history throughout the Old Testament is precisely the record of His association of men with His saving plan. And He who led his people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron (despite their weaknesses and outright sins) still leads His flock by the hand of all His popes.
For the New Covenant is the fulfillment of the Old.
of dust from the ground
The sacramental economy of salvation is true to more than history. Consider Genesis: creation itself shows us that spirit works through body. And re-creation is true to creation. God will not be thwarted. He does not scrap the world when it goes awry. He will not work around the flesh, the corporeal, temporal world in which we live–in which we are washed and fed and forgiven in time and space. Instead, He will redeem it.
In Genesis, man was created as an enfleshed being–in fact his body was created before his soul, and they were joined in a unit never meant to be dissolved. In Revelation, man is promised the redemption of his body. The beginning and the end of Scriptures (like the Alpha and Omega, Himself a Man) combine to affirm that the human person is incarnational, body-and-soul. And it is as such that we are called to meet our God.
For God calls us to an intensely personal encounter with Jesus Christ: an encounter which must take into account every dimension of our being, and of His. An encounter in which He meets us bodily in our flesh: brightly in our eyes, audibly in our ears, tangibly on our tongues.
We must meet Him, in the common parlance, “in person.”
How personal the encounter in which Christ comes to me in the Eucharist, in which He feeds my physical and spiritual body with His physical and spiritual Self! How personal the encounter in which I use the body and the words God gave me to enter a confessional–and in which I hear Him say, through the man He has given authority as His minister, that I have been forgiven!
Let us not neglect to meet Him in the places He comes to us.
in the things that have been made
It is the glory of things that they are able to bear God.
It is one of the marvels of the sun that a diamond refracts its light in a thousand ways: the diamond’s colors bring the sun close to us and tell us something new and beautiful about its pure, invisible light.
And it is one of the marvels of God that He comes near to us in the waters of Baptism, in the bread and wine of the Eucharist, in the person and words of the priest in Confession. The Sacraments show more perfectly and more beautifully the mysterious mercy of the God who is determined to save creation through creation: the God who came as a Man and continues to work through men to bring all things into one with Him–things not only in heaven, but on earth.
the ministry of reconciliation
There is one mediator between God and men: Jesus Christ. And we are His Body.
What God has joined together, let no man separate.
Let no man deprive the Head of His hands, Christ of His Church, the Priest of His priests.
For ours is the God of the Incarnation, the God of Creation: the God Who, in His strange and boundless mercy, delights in making man the instrument of grace.
 the Body spoken of in 1 Cor. 12, Rom. 12, Col. 1, etc.
 2 Cor. 4:7
 Ps. 77:20
 Matthew 3:9
 Gen. 2:5
 What a poverty to confine “person” to “spirit”–to try to deprive of its meaning my physicality, my need for physical sustenance and communion! (As though I were to insist on only talking to my friend on the phone because a communion of spirits is more “personal” than a physical encounter!) But God always works with who we are. He is not a God of impositions but of invitations: a God not of artificial reconstruction, but internal regeneration. True to the nature He created in us, He offers salvation through a human community and, in the Sacraments, answers to our deep need to receive Him in body as well as soul.
 John 20:22-23
 cf. Hebrews 10:25
 Romans 1:20
 Col. 1:20
 2 Cor. 5:18
 1 Tim. 2:5