Immersed in Christ: May 6, 2020
Wednesday, Week Four of Easter
The Responsorial (Psalm 67) is still celebrating the Good News and its extension to the whole world: “O God, let all the nations praise you.”
The Psalm specifies, “May your way be known upon earth, among all nations your salvation.” This inspires evangelization: we want every nation to “be glad and exult,” accepting Christ who “rules with justice” and “guides” to salvation. We dedicate our lives to this!
Acts 12:24 to 13:5 shows the Spirit telling the Church in Antioch to dedicate Barnabas and Saul (Paul):
While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.
Notice that it was the Church that “sent them off.” The community. Not God or the Spirit acting directly on Paul and Barnabas as individuals. Not just an authority or bishop. The Spirit spoke to and through the community.
This may not be so visible today. When do we find the community, or a parish council, or the presbyterate and lay leaders assembled with the bishop “worshiping the Lord and fasting” to seek God’s guidance in pastoral ministry? (Think about that. It may be happening in your parish and diocese without being recognized as such).
There is, however, a visible sign of it at every Mass. When the bread and wine are brought forward in the Presentation of Gifts, they are brought up from the back of the church, passing through the whole congregation. This says two things: first, that the whole congregation is “coming forward” symbolically to place themselves on the altar under the signs of the bread and wine. But it also says that each individual, represented by each individual host, is being presented by the whole community. We don’t go forward only on our own initiative. It is an individual, personal expression of commitment, yes. But it is commitment within a community, invited by a community, approved and supported by a community. This is expressed ritually in both Baptism and Confirmation.
And it is, if we are mature enough to accept it as that, the community “sending us off” in mission. The community is recognizing that God has “set apart” each one of us “for the work to which” he has called each one. We are consecrated by Baptism to do the work of Jesus Prophet, Priest and King. At home. At work. In family and social life. In business and politics. Each one of us is “set apart” for the work to which God has called us. The Presentation of Gifts invites us to remember and reaffirm that as there are many hosts but one bread, we are many members but one body, with many gifts but one goal. We live to make God known and loved: “O God, let all the nations praise you.”
In John 12:44-50 Jesus said, “who sees me sees him who sent me.” We need to be conscious that who sees us sees the Church. And Jesus. People will judge both by what they see in us, for better or worse. Let it be prophetic witness.
Initiative: Know you are “set apart” as one of many, to be a witness.