Summary: Just as Jesus fulfilled the plan of God to restore communion between humans and God, so the Church continues that mission in the world today.
Thursday of 3rd Week of Easter 2014
“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, `And they shall all be taught by God.' Every one who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me.”
Our faith is so Jesus-centered that sometimes we can be tempted to forget that the whole mission of Jesus was centered on His Father. The people of Israel were called to be the human embodiment of God the Father’s love for humans. They were tasked to worship God correctly, to live justly, and to be humble in His presence, as the prophet Micah testified. But they messed everything up. Everything. They worshiped the gods of the land, including ones that demanded human sacrifice, baby-murder. They oppressed the stranger and the poor, the widow and the orphan. And they aspired to secular greatness, famous kings and princes, harems, palaces, and expansion of their kingdom.
Jesus, however, was exactly the embodiment of Israel’s mission. He was constantly in prayer, in temple, in synagogue, but also on the mountains of Israel, communing with His Father many nights without sleep. And He taught His disciples right worship, in spirit and truth, especially in the breaking of the bread, which we know is His Body, Blood, soul and divinity. He had special love for the poor, weak, widows, orphans, and He taught that to the Church as well, so that today we have a preferential option for the poor. Finally, even when the people wanted to make Him king, he refused. Thus, when He died, He died under the sign “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews,” and now He reigns forever at the right hand of the Father. He constantly pointed us to the Father, and the Father constantly draws men and women and children to His Son. Isn’t that what happened to the Ethiopian official? Tradition tells us that Philip’s ministry to this man led to the conversion of all of Ethiopia.
The popes tell us, in their commentary on faith and the Eucharist, “Two other elements [besides the Profession of Faith] are essential in the faithful transmission of the Church’s memory. First, the Lord’s Prayer, the “Our Father”. Here Christians learn to share in Christ’s own spiritual experience and to see all things through his eyes. From him who is light from light, the only-begotten Son of the Father, we come to know God and can thus kindle in others the desire to draw near to him.
“Similarly important is the link between faith and the Decalogue. Faith, as we have said, takes the form of a journey, a path to be followed, which begins with an encounter with the living God. It is in the light of faith, of complete entrustment to the God who saves, that the Ten Commandments take on their deepest truth, as seen in the words which introduce them: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt” (Ex 20:2). The Decalogue is not a set of negative commands, but concrete directions for emerging from the desert of the selfish and self-enclosed ego in order to enter into dialogue with God, to be embraced by his mercy and then to bring that mercy to others. Faith thus professes the love of God, origin and upholder of all things, and lets itself be guided by this love in order to journey towards the fullness of communion with God. The Decalogue appears as the path of gratitude, the response of love, made possible because in faith we are receptive to the experience of God’s transforming love for us.”
Thus the Church, despite her human failings, has been for two thousand years the fulfillment of God’s desire for humans. Israel messed up; Jesus restored the communion with the Father, and the Church continues that communion, remembering what is past, but bringing it each day in the Mass to fulfillment in the present, as we look toward a glorious future in the presence of the Blessed Trinity.