Immersed in Christ: July 30, 2020
Thursday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time
The Responsorial Psalm reminds us to trust in God for the fruits of ministry: “Blest is he whose help is the God of Jacob” (Psalm 146).
The fruit of Christian ministry depends on two things not under the minister’s control: grace and free will. That is why we cannot expect results to follow simply the law of cause and effect. Good ministry does not necessarily bear good fruit. We plant and water, but God makes grow — if the seed falls on good ground (1Corinthians 3: 5-15; Matthew 13: 3-30).
Jeremiah 18: 1-6 focuses on grace, or the action of God on the hearts of those to whom we minister. “Grace” just means “favor.” It can mean the abiding gift of sharing in the life of God, which is salvation (habitual grace); or a momentary boost of light or strength to help us act (actual grace). The passage presents God as a potter molding clay on his wheel. “Whenever the vessel he was making came out wrong… he would start afresh and work it into another vessel.” It concludes: “As the clay is in the potter's hand, so you are in mine, House of Israel.” Although what is most evident to us are the effects of human choices, the truth is that God is in control. He respects human freedom — which means he allows us to sin even when it damages us and causes suffering to others — but he is still in control, and in the end he will triumph. We acknowledge and ask for this when we pray as Jesus taught us, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” And in our ministry we seek above all to act in union with Christ within us, so that his grace might work through us.
I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing (John 15:5).
Matthew 13: 47-53 reminds us that Christian ministry is cooperation with the living Spirit of God whose action we can never predict.
What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit…. The wind blows where it chooses… but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.
Christian ministry is not just teaching static doctrine or patently explicit laws. The good minister must be in touch with the Holy Spirit at work in the Church, constantly discovering and communicating “what is new and what is old.”
This is why we cannot always judge new movements or directions in the Church. “The kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet” that brings in all kinds of things. Some may not be clear until “at the end of time the angels separate the wicked from the just!” “Do not quench the Spirit” (1Thessalonians 5:19).
Initiative: Be a priest. Be open to the Spirit of God in yourself and others.
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