Summary: The Holy Spirit knows well what is needed in every time and place.
Thursday of 11th Week in Course
There’s a contrast between our two prophets–Jesus and Elijah–in today’s Scriptures. Elijah’s missionary method was pretty direct. When Israel defected from worshiping the true God, he called down a three-year drought. When he won the contest with the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel, he took them to the brook and slit their throats. It kind of reminds me of the way the Islamic State spreads Islam–by terror. Jesus, on the other hand, was pretty much the opposite. He preached love and forgiveness for those who would persecute us. It’s not as direct, but it has been way more effective. In fact, if we don’t forgive our enemies, the Father won’t forgive our sins. Jesus taught us the right way to change the world–we must change our hearts first, and then act to change one person at a time, from the interior, not by force.
The Holy Father continues his treatment of missionary attitudes, and answers the question of what to do when our efforts seem fruitless: ‘Because we do not always see these seeds growing, we need an interior certainty, a conviction that God is able to act in every situation, even amid apparent setbacks: “We have this treasure in earthen vessels” (2 Cor 4:7). This certainty is often called “a sense of mystery”. It involves knowing with certitude that all those who entrust themselves to God in love will bear good fruit (cf. Jn 15:5). This fruitfulness is often invisible, elusive and unquantifiable. We can know quite well that our lives will be fruitful, without claiming to know how, or where, or when. We may be sure that none of our acts of love will be lost, nor any of our acts of sincere concern for others. No single act of love for God will be lost, no generous effort is meaningless, no painful endurance is wasted. All of these encircle our world like a vital force. Sometimes it seems that our work is fruitless, but mission is not like a business transaction or investment, or even a humanitarian activity. It is not a show where we count how many people come as a result of our publicity; it is something much deeper, which escapes all measurement. It may be that the Lord uses our sacrifices to shower blessings in another part of the world which we will never visit. The Holy Spirit works as he wills, when he wills and where he wills; we entrust ourselves without pretending to see striking results. We know only that our commitment is necessary. Let us learn to rest in the tenderness of the arms of the Father amid our creative and generous commitment. Let us keep marching forward; let us give him everything, allowing him to make our efforts bear fruit in his good time.
‘Keeping our missionary fervour alive calls for firm trust in the Holy Spirit, for it is he who “helps us in our weakness” (Rom 8:26). But this generous trust has to be nourished, and so we need to invoke the Spirit constantly. He can heal whatever causes us to flag in the missionary endeavour. It is true that this trust in the unseen can cause us to feel disoriented: it is like being plunged into the deep and not knowing what we will find. I myself have frequently experienced this. Yet there is no greater freedom than that of allowing oneself to be guided by the Holy Spirit, renouncing the attempt to plan and control everything to the last detail, and instead letting him enlighten, guide and direct us, leading us wherever he wills. The Holy Spirit knows well what is needed in every time and place. This is what it means to be mysteriously fruitful!’
Here in the U.S., we tend to make everything political. We think we can stop abortion by electing pro-life politicians. That might make abortion harder to get, but there are millions of Americans who consider abortion about as immoral as a haircut or a tummy tuck. Hearts changed after Roe v Wade, and hearts hardened against the humanity of the tiniest humans. Only the Holy Spirit can soften them, can lead them to repentance. So we must let the Spirit work in our lives, no matter what our cause may be today, and remember that Elijah’s methods didn’t work, but Christ’s love method changed the world.