• David Knight

Immersed in Christ: July 13, 2020

Monday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time

The Responsorial Psalm tells us that our aim in religion and ministry must be first to so live that we will be able to see and understand the mystery of God. “To the upright I will show the saving power of God” (Psalm 50).

Last Saturday’s reading was a “flashback” to the vision that sent Isaiah to prophesy. Now in Isaiah 1: 10-17 he begins his message by calling Israel (and us) to “lay the ax to the root of the tree”1 — to re-examine the root of our religious observance, the goal that gives direction, meaning and value to all we do: “Cease doing evil; learn to do good. Make justice your aim!”

We can perform religious acts aimlessly, just doing them because we are supposed to, without any goal in mind except obedient conformity. And in our ministry to one another we can stop short here. We can encourage our children and each other to “go to Mass” without teaching them (or asking ourselves) why the Church calls us there, or what our goal, our focus, should be while we are participating in the Eucharist. Then we are “just there,” “fulfilling our obligation,” and God says to us through Isaiah, “What care I for the number of your sacrifices?… Trample my courts no more!”

It is true that in itself the Mass always has the value of the offering Jesus made on the cross, since it is the same offering made present. But its value to us is greater or lesser in proportion to our active participation in the celebration. If we don’t know what we are supposed to be doing at Mass, and do not try to do it, Mass will be a “dead” experience for us, and we will make it deadly for others. So Isaiah urges us, “Listen to the instruction of our God…. learn to do good. Make justice your aim.”

In Matthew 10:34 to 11:1 Jesus clarifies his goal, which is also the goal of the Mass. It is not to make us “feel good”: “Do not suppose that my mission on earth is to spread peace, but division!” Jesus came to call us into “crisis,” to make us choose, not just between good and bad, but between the good and the perfect. He calls us to “lose our lives” on the level of the ordinary human fulfillment that might be our goal now and to aim instead at “life to the full.”2 In all our religious observances, especially the Mass, we should be intent on “dying” to our accepted level of life in order to live on the level of God through graced union with Jesus Christ. And this must be our aim in ministry to others. To water down the Gospel is to pollute the water of Baptism, whose saving power is seen only by those who aim at “life to the full.” To the upright I will show the saving power of God.

Initiative: Be a priest. Embody “life to the full” and share it.

1 Matthew 3:10.

2 John 10:10.


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