Tuesday, Week Seventeen
The Responsorial (Psalm 103) assures us: “The Lord is kind and merciful.”
These are the words Moses heard in Exodus 33:7 to 34:28 when “the LORD passed before him, and proclaimed, ‘The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.” The Jerome Biblical Commentary (on John 1:14) calls these words a
“virtual definition of God.” He is the God of “enduring love,” of steadfast love and faithfulness.
This is the God we must reflect in ministry: a God of “steadfast love.” We must never let people’s faults or apathy, or even their rejection of us, turn us away from loving and serving them. Because God doesn’t. And we must be on guard against ever giving the impression, in any way, that the Church rejects people or holds them at arm’s length from the sacraments because of their attitude or their sins. There are boundaries, of course, but they are not nearly as absolute and inflexible as most people (including many priests) assume. If we ever dare to discourage someone from receiving Eucharist, for example, we had better be certain enough to swear on the Bible that the person is in an actual state of abiding mortal sin, subjectively as well as objectively. If we cannot do this, we may be in contradiction with Jesus who proclaims at every Mass, “Take this, all of you, and eat it.” Whenever our own attitude or actions seem to project the image of anything except a God who is “kind and merciful, abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” we are on dangerous ground as ministers of Jesus Christ.
In Matthew 13: 36-43 Jesus explains the parable of God’s patience. Yes, there is sin in the Church. But Jesus cautions us that the sinners are often indistinguishable from saints. We cannot judge the heart of any person. God himself judges no one until each one’s time in “this world” is over. And that is not until we are dead — which theologically may not coincide exactly with biological death as doctors (with disagreement among themselves) define it. It is within the boundaries of Catholic doctrine to suggest that we are not truly “dead” until God presents himself to us at death, opens our eyes to the reality of his love and our response to it, and calls us to choose. For us the “Final Judgment” may consist in the final judgment we make about God, the world and ourselves after the “veils” are removed — intellectual, cultural, emotional — that have caused us to perceive God as other than he is. When this world has come to an end, what we will all be exclaiming is, “The Lord is kind and merciful!”
If we have any doubts, it is enough to look at Jesus during the Eucharistic Prayer, present in the host, present in the once and eternal act of offering himself on the cross for each and all of us. This capsulizes what the words mean in the Greeting that introduces Mass: “May the love of God be with you!’ We see that love lifted up and proclaimed: “This is my Body, given up for you.”
Initiative: Be a priest. Let God’s love guide you and express itself in you.