Fr. George Metcalf was one of the most dedicated and holy people I had ever met. When he told me that, as he got older, he began to worry about his salvation, I was shocked and confused. Chaplain to Gen. George Patton in the Second World War, Fr. Metcalf was famous for his piety and his compassion. If he was worried, what about the rest of us?
He explained that he had been dedicated in his work as a priest, but now was concerned more deeply for the sake of his soul. He had been so caught up in the work that he feared he had neglected the one thing most needful. He believed in forgiveness, to be sure. He believed in the promises of God in Christ. This was about integrity and about a deep coherence between words and actions, a movement toward a depth of conversion that is the promise of the grace of Jesus.
As I get older, what he said makes a lot more sense. In the ministry, there is a special danger that we can be caught up in the work and forget our souls. Jesus warns us, in his harsh treatment of the particularly pious, of the perils of piety not grounded in reality. Paul tells us to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12). Our Christian faith is about so much more than simply doing good things. It is also about more than forgiveness. God has saved us to walk in both grace and integrity. This is our high calling.