Father David's Reflection for Tuesday of Week Twenty-Six (Ordinary Time)
The Responsorial declares simply: “God is with us” (Zechariah 8:23; Psalm 87).
Zechariah 8: 20-23 describes how, when God restores Jerusalem, ten people from every nation on earth will “take hold of every Jew by the edge of his garment and say, ‘Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.’”
For people to be drawn to the Church, they have to perceive that God is truly with this community. And how will they perceive this? Not just — or even primarily — by what they see and hear in church. Or if it is what they experience in church, it will be their experience of the congregation, of the evident faith, joy, enthusiasm, and appreciation for God that surrounds them when they worship with believers. It is the Spirit of God visible in the assembly that lets us say with credibility, “God is with us.”
This is not to deny that the priests need to preach out of a live, passionate experience of God; and that they need to preside in a way that shows that they themselves are caught up in the mystery they are celebrating. This calls for personal holiness — defined in Vatican II as “perfect union with Christ.”1 But the priest alone cannot make the Mass an experience of God present in the whole assembly. The “we” who need to make the changes are the lay people, not just the priests. And it will take lay leaders in the pews to make it happen. They too have to be “holy.”
Most of all, however, the evidence that God is with the Church is in the daily life of the laity. The “Church” is what people meet and mix with at work, in their social lives, in their family life and at school. If God is not with us when we go out from church, then we are not truly with God when we are in church. If we, with the assembly as a whole, are not experiencing the presence of God in church and at Mass, we need to make some changes in our lives and show that “God is with us” everywhere we are..
In contrast to Zechariah’s picture, in Luke 9: 51-56 the Samaritans reject Jesus himself, precisely because he is a Jew. There was a nationalistic clash between Jews and Samaritans which made them unable to live together, much less worship together. And the disciples’ reaction shows that they too were full of cultural prejudice and the conditioned response of knee-jerk violence. If we don’t work to bring about cultural changes in our work, home, school, and city, how can we ever experience the “peace and unity of God’s kingdom”? But if we exercise leadership there, the Church will be able to say with credibility, “God is with us.”
1 The Church, no. 50
Initiative: Be Christ’s steward. Change what hides God in the Church.