Summary: Nobody can be like Christ and attract others to the community of faith without being filled with His compassion.
Thursday of 6th Week in Course 2014
"Get behind me, you adversary! For you are not on the side of God, but of men." I suppose St. Peter, who was just plain Simon Peter at the time, was confused by what Jesus had just said to him. After all, he was supposed to be the “Rock,” and Peter rightly thought that meant he should be Jesus’s advisor. But Jesus didn’t need any advisors, as we do, because He was in constant relationship with the Father in the Holy Spirit. Nobody needed to tell Him about God’s plan, God’s vision. It was His task to teach us about God’s plan.
As the Popes have been writing to us in their encyclical, the Light of Faith, it is not enough for us to hear the Word of God. As we see, Peter heard God’s word and still didn’t get it. James and John heard the word and still asked for the places on the right hand and left, which were reserved in God’s plan for two thieves. And Judas, whom Jesus loved so much that He made Him the community treasurer (and thief), really didn’t get it. They all wanted Jesus to be the “expected One,” a mighty Messiah who would rally the people and lead an army of Jews and angels to expel the Romans and become masters of the world. They heard the word of God, but if they had acted on their perception at that moment, everything would have been lost in the same kind of ocean of blood that overwhelmed the Jewish rebels thirty-five years later.
No, what was lacking to the apostles at that moment, and what finally caused them to “get it” at Pentecost, was vision. They had to begin to see with the eyes of God, the eyes of Jesus. If they looked into the soul of the men and women around them, and into their own souls, they would see disorder and rebellion. Nobody can be like Christ with a soul filled with hatred, arrogance, fear. Nobody can be like Christ and attract others to the community of faith without being filled with His compassion. I can’t make you do God’s will; only you can make you do God’s will. Oh, we can impose rules and laws by force, but unless hearts and minds are changed, when the force is taken away, the same old bad behavior will return with a vengeance.
Consider what St. James was writing to his congregations about: treating rich and poor people differently at what we now call Mass. James reminds them that the church of the first century was primarily a church of the poor. When somebody parades in finely dressed, draped with jewelry and silk and all manner of ostentation, it is very likely that he or she is there to be seen, not to acquire new eyes to see. The poor person who puts on the best he has–some shabby articles of clothing–may feel embarrassed to be anywhere. But that impoverished soul very likely knows that he needs to acquire a new vision, and so has come to be counseled and consoled and challenged to live out his baptism.
That’s why we must treat every parishioner with the same dignity, whether they look rich or poor, whether they arrive early or late, whether they put money in the collection plate or not. Each is a child of God, desired by God for eternal union with Himself. And therefore for union today and tomorrow with us.