Summary: When we are in pain, we are able to grow, because we are ready for change–at least for relief from our pain. And in pain we most clearly understand that our only hope, our only permanent asset, is the love and healing of Our Lord.
Thursday after Trinity
Today in the Ordinary calendar we celebrate St. Philip Neri, founder of the Oratory, and one of the giants of the sixteenth century. He was a great apostle of prayer and one of the great confessors of his time. But it is also the traditional day we celebrate Corpus Christi–not the city but the sacrament of the Lord’s presence, and of the Lord’s nourishment of His people. A good day to remember the precious gift of the Eucharist, and the great price Jesus Christ paid to give Himself to us on the cross.
The Pope is still reflecting on the spiritual life of the evangelist: ‘Sometimes we are tempted to be that kind of Christian who keeps the Lord’s wounds at arm’s length. Yet Jesus wants us to touch human misery, to touch the suffering flesh of others. He hopes that we will stop looking for those personal or communal niches which shelter us from the maelstrom of human misfortune and instead enter into the reality of other people’s lives and know the power of tenderness. Whenever we do so, our lives become wonderfully complicated and we experience intensely what it is to be a people, to be part of a people.
‘It is true that in our dealings with the world, we are told to give reasons for our hope, but not as an enemy who critiques and condemns. We are told quite clearly: “do so with gentleness and reverence” (1 Pet 3:15) and “if possible, so far as it depends upon you, live peaceably with all” (Rom 12:18). We are also told to overcome “evil with good” (Rom 12:21) and to “work for the good of all” (Gal 6:10). Far from trying to appear better than others, we should “in humility count others better” than ourselves (Phil 2:3). The Lord’s apostles themselves enjoyed “favour with all the people” (Acts 2:47; 4:21, 33; 5:13). Clearly Jesus does not want us to be grandees who look down upon others, but men and women of the people. This is not an idea of the Pope, or one pastoral option among others; they are injunctions contained in the word of God which are so clear, direct and convincing that they need no interpretations which might diminish their power to challenge us. Let us live them sine glossa, without commentaries. By so doing we will know the missionary joy of sharing life with God’s faithful people as we strive to light a fire in the heart of the world.
‘Loving others is a spiritual force drawing us to union with God; indeed, one who does not love others “walks in the darkness” (1 Jn 2:11), “remains in death” (1 Jn 3:14) and “does not know God” (1 Jn 4:8). Benedict XVI has said that “closing our eyes to our neighbour also blinds us to God”, and that love is, in the end, the only light which “can always illuminate a world grown dim and give us the courage needed to keep living and working”. When we live out a spirituality of drawing nearer to others and seeking their welfare, our hearts are opened wide to the Lord’s greatest and most beautiful gifts. Whenever we encounter another person in love, we learn something new about God. Whenever our eyes are opened to acknowledge the other, we grow in the light of faith and knowledge of God. If we want to advance in the spiritual life, then, we must constantly be missionaries. The work of evangelization enriches the mind and the heart; it opens up spiritual horizons; it makes us more and more sensitive to the workings of the Holy Spirit, and it takes us beyond our limited spiritual constructs. A committed missionary knows the joy of being a spring which spills over and refreshes others. Only the person who feels happiness in seeking the good of others, in desiring their happiness, can be a missionary. This openness of the heart is a source of joy, since “it is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). We do not live better when we flee, hide, refuse to share, stop giving and lock ourselves up in own comforts. Such a life is nothing less than slow suicide.’
In other words, we need to take risks if we are to grow, and if we are to be effective in mission. The Holy Spirit inspires us to be open to the possibilities of life, to the needs of those around us, and particularly to their pain. We must hear them saying, "Son of David, have mercy on me." When we are fat and happy, we tend to lay back and just enjoy our success and health. When we are in pain, we are able to grow, because we are ready for change–at least for relief from our pain. And in pain we most clearly understand that our only hope, our only permanent asset, is the love and healing of Our Lord. So let’s be sensitive to those in pain, and let the Lord use us to alleviate the pain of others by the working of the Holy Spirit.