Immersed in Christ: August 4, 2020
TUESDAY of the EIGHTEENTH WEEK in Ordinary Time
The Responsorial Psalm is a summons to hope: “The Lord will build up Zion again, and appear in all his glory” (Psalm 102).
Jeremiah 30: 1-22 begins by agreeing that those who say things are hopeless are right! “Yes, the Lord says this: ‘Your wound is incurable, your injury past healing.’” At any time or place in the Church we can say, “Your pain is incurable. So great is your guilt, so many your sins….”
But for Christians, as for Israel, our hopelessness is the foundation of our hope. If we trust in any wisdom or virtue we have, or in any initiatives, pastoral plans or projects we devise, we are doomed. Jesus said that even he, apart from the Father, could “do nothing.” And we can “do nothing” apart from Jesus (John 5: 19, 30; 8:28; 15:5). So as ministers of Christ we always have reason to despair and we never have reason to despair.
Jeremiah’s prophecy goes on to say that God not only can cure what is incurable, but that he intends to. In this spirit we come to Jesus today like the leper who said, “Lord, if you choose, you can make me clean.” The Gospel tells us Jesus said, “I do choose. Be made clean!” Immediately his leprosy was cleansed” (Matthew 8: 1-3).
Jesus does not promise such immediate, visible and dramatic results every time we pray. But his “I do choose” is his lasting stance. It is a consequence and manifestation of the “steadfast love,” the enduring “kindness and fidelity” that are the core of God’s glory and in Scripture the “virtual definition” of his being (see Exodus 33:12 to 34:6 and the Jerome Biblical Commentary on John 1:14). If we know God our ministry will be always a ministry, not of human optimism which can leave us disappointed and disillusioned, but of divine hope. Our trust is based, not on what we see, but on what we know. And we know “the Lord will build up Zion again, and appear in all his glory.”
In Matthew 14: 22-36 we have an image of the early Church called to trust. Jesus has ascended into heaven — “up into the hills by himself to pray” — and his disciples are in the boat (the Church) “battling with a heavy sea” and the “headwind” of opposing cultural attitudes and values. They feel threatened, abandoned and alone – just as we do today!
Then Jesus comes to them, walking on the water. But as in his resurrection appearances, they do not recognize him (Luke 24: 15, 31; John 2: 4, 7). They think he is a ghost. When Jesus calls out, “Courage! It is I! Do not be afraid,” Peter risks his life to find out if this is true. Ministry lives by trust that is realized in risk and confirmed in encounter.
Initiative: Be a priest. Accept any risk to encounter the living Jesus.