Immersed in Christ: May 29, 2020
Friday, Week Seven of Easter
The Responsorial (Psalm 103) calls us to look to God alone in our decisions: “The Lord has set his throne in heaven.”
Acts 25: 13-21 brings to a head a whole series of people refusing to accept the responsibility of decision. The tribune, although he found Paul “was charged with nothing deserving death or imprisonment,” passed him on to the governor Felix to be judged. Felix put off making a decision for two years, until he was succeeded in office by Festus. Festus heard the charges, knew they were groundless, but “wishing to do a favor for the Jews,” did not make a decision either. Instead he asked Paul, “Do you wish to go up to Jerusalem,” as his enemies had requested, “and be tried there before me on these charges?” Paul, who saw which way the wind was blowing with Festus, said, “If there is nothing to their charges against me, no one can turn me over to them. I appeal to the emperor.” Now Festus got to pass the buck, and he sent Paul to Rome.
Actually, God wanted this so that Paul and Peter would die in the same place, giving united witness to the faith. But in itself, the whole story is a travesty of justice, brought about by people who, one after another, refused to take responsibility for making a decision.1
This is a refusal the Presentation of Gifts meets head on in the Mass. When the bread and wine are sent forward to be placed on the altar, every Christian present is confronted with a decision to make. It is the radical, adult, all-embracing decision to take one’s life, one’s existence, into one’s own hands and decide what to do with it. What we want to make of it. On whom we wish to bestow it. The invitation is to give ourselves, body and soul, to God, as we did on the day of our Baptism. But to give more consciously, with more understanding of what the gift of self entails — and gives us in return. The Presentation of Gifts is a crucial and a precious moment that urges us to break the inertia of indecision and indifference and embrace radical self-determination in a deep choice of “life to the full.”
The peak of self-determination is self-surrender. Jesus said, “Those who lose their life for my sake will find it.” That is what Baptism is: giving up life in this world in order to live divinely as the body of Christ. There is no greater love; there is no greater life.
In John 21: 15-19 Jesus tells Peter, as he told Paul, about the surrender which will bring him into total life. And death:
When you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go.” (He said this to indicate the kind of death by which he would glorify God.)
Then he gave Peter the “Great Commandment” that rules all pastoral ministry: “If you love me, feed my sheep.” Those who don’t “pass the buck” will have the courage to make whatever decisions this calls for.
Initiative: Embrace life: Use your freedom to give it away.
1 Acts 23:11. See again J. M. R. Tillard, O.P., The Bishop of Rome, Glazier, Inc., 1986, pages 74-117. 2 Matthew 16:25.