Immersed in Christ: May 21, 2020
Thursday, Week Six of Easter
These are today’s readings where the feast of the Ascension has been transferred to the Seventh Sunday of Easter. Where not, see June 5 for the feast of the Ascension.
The Responsorial (Psalm 98) proclaims God’s irrepressible “steadfast love”: “The Lord has revealed to the nations his saving power.”
In Acts 18: 1-8 Paul is not having much success in Corinth converting his fellow Jews, whether of Jewish or Greek origin. When they “turned against him and started to insult him,” he finally said, “Your blood be on your own heads!... From now on I will go to the Gentiles.” Nevertheless, “Crispus, president of the synagogue, and his whole household, all became believers… and a great many Corinthians who heard Paul… were baptized.” God doesn’t give up. Someone has called him “the God of second chances.” And third, and fourth, until we have entered fully into death. This is really just another way of recognizing him as the God of “steadfast love,” which is Scripture’s most characteristic description of him.
In John 16: 16-20 Jesus says something to his apostles that has application to our daily experience: “A little while, and you will no longer see me, and again a little while, and you will see me.”
All of us have the experience of being “turned on” by God, or by some religious activity, such as private prayer or the Mass, and later being “turned off” by exactly the same thing. What we call “devotion” and the spiritual writers call “consolation,” just doesn’t last. It comes and goes. Saint Ignatius gives reasons for this in his Spiritual Exercises, but the essential is to know it is normal and expect it. And above all, to know that the “desolation,” or lack of all feelings of devotion — sometimes extending to the absence of all feeling of conviction about the faith, of love, or even of any felt interest in God — will not last. “You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy.” You will be “turned on” again, and when you are, you will know that it is by God, and not just because the liturgy is more exciting for a change, or you have begun to do something different in prayer. This is when we experience grace most purely as grace and Jesus most clearly as God.
A clarification, however: When we don’t find devotion we should first examine what we ourselves are doing at Mass, in prayer or in action. We may need to make some changes. The first one at Mass is just to pay attention to the words. The words are exciting. But only if we think about what they mean.
The essential response, however, is just to reaffirm our faith, hope and love: not “even when,” but “especially when” we don’t feel it. Faith, hope and love are gifts from God, but each is also a free choice. The grace of each is the grace to choose to act by faith, in hope, with love. That is why the Presentation of Gifts is such a crucial moment in Mass: it is the explicit invitation to reaffirm our Baptism and all it expresses. If we persevere, we will say, “the Lord has revealed… his saving power.
Initiative: Go up in spirit with the bread and wine at Mass. Be placed on the altar.
1 See no. 322