Immersed in Christ: May 26, 2020
Tuesday, Week Seven of Easter
Today’s verses of the Responsorial (Psalm 68) invite us to “Sing to God” for his generosity in pouring out divine life like rain.
In Acts 20: 17-27 Paul describes how God’s divine life was made visible in him. Not through miracles, visions or ecstasies (although all these are found in his life). He just says, “I carried out the mission the Lord Jesus gave me.” It was “to bear witness to the Good News of God’s grace.” How did he do this?
I lived among you… serving the Lord with all humility… enduring the trials that came to me… I have not hesitated to do anything that would be helpful to you. I have preached to you, and instructed you both in public and in your homes, urging both Jews and Greeks to turn to God and to believe in our Lord Jesus.
None of this strikes us as being so explicitly “divine” — until we ask ourselves how many people we see doing the same, and for what motives.
Plenty of non-Christians and even atheists are dedicated to serving people, and are willing to “do anything helpful” for others if they can, “enduring the trials” that come to them as a result. Do their lives reveal God’s life in them?
Let’s not rule it out. They may well be what we call “anonymous Christians,” people who have surrendered to the grace of God, but under some other name because for them “the true nature of God and of religion” was “concealed rather than revealed” by the Church they experienced. Vatican II lays blame on Catholics, lay and clergy alike, who “are careless about their instruction in the faith, or present its teaching falsely, or even fail in their religious, moral or social life.” We have taught errors. 1
The key question, though, is motive. Some people “do good” (and it is good), just because it is humanly rewarding. Also, their social milieu may support feeling disturbed by the disorder and irrationality of injustice, ecological devastation, sickness and suffering. They feel better trying to set things right. Add human compassion and we have love. Some have argued that all love reveals divine grace, but this leads to the conclusion that humans cannot love without grace, which makes human nature radically corrupt. So we must say it is possible to be loving and altruistic without grace. But we never can or should judge this is actually so in a particular case.
For Christian witness, however, it needs to be obvious that human motives cannot explain what one does. And this can appear in very ordinary ministries such as Paul details, especially if they are constant and enduring enough to reveal persevering commitment.
In John 17: 1-11 Jesus saw his crucifixion as the supreme and unambiguous revelation of his divine love, both for God and humans. “Father, the hour has come. Glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you.” He in turn is glorified in those disciples whose lives make it clear they “know the Father and Jesus whom he sent.” This, Jesus says, “is eternal life.” What shows we know God is persevering love.
Initiative: Recommit to revealing the light in you that is proof of eternal life.
1 See Vatican II, “The Church in the Modern World,” no. 19, and “The Church,” no. 51. View Today's Readings Here