Immersed in Christ: August 28, 2020
FRIDAY of the TWENTY-FIRST WEEK in Ordinary Time
The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.
(Responsorial: Psalm 33)
What is the “verbal wisdom” (sophia logou, sapientia verbi) Paul disclaims in 1Corinthians 1:17-25? It is knowledge that is able to use words correctly in sentences without ever asking what the words themselves really mean. We do it all the time. For example what do we mean by the words we hear at every Mass: “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ?” The “communion of the Holy Spirit”? What does “Lord, have mercy” actually mean? How does Jesus “take away” the sins of the world? (Just forgiving sins does not take away guilt or change the one forgiven in any way). Why does Jesus have to be the “Lamb of God” to do it? Why do we say to Jesus, “you alone are the Holy One... the Lord... the Most High”?
Every one of these terms is incomprehensible unless we know the mystery each is expressing. If we are not awed and excited every time we hear them, we are still on the level of “verbal knowledge,” without having penetrated to the deep level of what these mean to those who have the gift of faith. 1
We need to repeat over and over, “All ministry is the expression and communication of mystery.” If we are just “helping people,” that is good, admirable, pleasing to God, and not nearly common enough in the Church or society; but it is not Christian ministry. And it “falls short” of what God wants us to do.
Matthew 25:1-13 makes the point that Christian life is a constant expectation of something more. The bridesmaids were waiting to welcome the groom. To wait is to be aware that something is coming. To wait “with our torches lit” is to wait with enough light to know what that “something” is. The “wise bridesmaids” weren’t just waiting for something. Their “something” was a “someone.” They were waiting for the bridegroom. They kept their torches burning, kept their light alive. When the shout came, “The groom is here! Come out and greet him!” they were ready.
It is easy to “doze off.” We all do. We all forget what we are waiting for, what life is all about. But if we are nurturing the light within us, continually supplying oil to our lamps by reading, reflection, discussing with others our experience of God, our understanding of the voices we have heard, we will be able to wake up without disorientation, aware that the earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.
Initiative: Share your oil with others. Ministry is keeping lamps lit.
1 For “grace” see Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 1997; for “communion”; see nos. 946-962. The Catechism does not define “mercy,” which is “to come to the aid of another out of a sense of relationship,” but explains its exercise well in no. 2212. To understand how Christ “takes away” sin, read Romans 6:3-4; 2Corinthians 5:14-21. For “you alone,” see Wednesday of Week Eleven and Experiencing the Mass, Abbey Press 2011, “The Gloria.”