Summary: To enjoy infinite love curing our infinite sadness, we need to live by the moral code Jesus taught, the code of loving even our enemies.

Thursday of 2nd Week in Course 2017

Joy of the Gospel

“Our infinite sadness can only be cured by an infinite love.” Those words of Pope Francis ended our reflection last Thursday on the encyclical Joy of the Gospel. Now God’s love is unconditional. He loves even jerks, even sinners like me and you. Even sinners with huge evils on their consciences. Even sinners who have almost killed their consciences.

But we have to respond to God’s love in order to be fit to enjoy His company forever. Bad apples don’t make good fritters. Bad actors don’t make good divine companions. So God provides us the actual grace, the grace-for-the-down-and-dirty to act as Jesus did in a world that is hostile to the Gospel. And to understand today’s Gospel we need to remember that it is part of Christ’s “hyperbolic discourse.” Hyperbole is exaggeration for effect. We focus attention on an important point by overstating it. “Angry with my brother?” Who hasn’t been angry with a close relative? What Jesus means is that we don’t fulfill the fifth commandment just by avoiding homicide. We also must go way beyond and do good for those we are angry with. I do believe, however, that Jesus was encouraging negotiation and settlement of lawsuits before going to court. Remember that in Jesus’s days, many prisoners were being held in jail for nonpayment of debts. They stayed there until a friend paid off the debt. But we don’t really have to get all buddy-buddy with the guy who sued us.

So to enjoy infinite love curing our infinite sadness, we need to live by the moral code Jesus taught, the code of loving even our enemies. The Pope continues in that vein:

‘This conviction has to be sustained by our own constantly renewed experience of savoring Christ’s friendship and his message. It is impossible to persevere in a fervent evangelization unless we are convinced from personal experience that it is not the same thing to have known Jesus as not to have known him, not the same thing to walk with him as to walk blindly, not the same thing to hear his word as not to know it, and not the same thing to contemplate him, to worship him, to find our peace in him, as not to. It is not the same thing to try to build the world with his Gospel as to try to do so by our own lights. We know well that with Jesus life becomes richer and that with him it is easier to find meaning in everything. This is why we evangelize. A true missionary, who never ceases to be a disciple, knows that Jesus walks with him, speaks to him, breathes with him, works with him. He senses Jesus alive with him in the midst of the missionary enterprise. Unless we see him present at the heart of our missionary commitment, our enthusiasm soon wanes and we are no longer sure of what it is that we are handing on; we lack vigor and passion. A person who is not convinced, enthusiastic, certain and in love, will convince nobody.

‘In union with Jesus, we seek what he seeks and we love what he loves. In the end, what we are seeking is the glory of the Father; we live and act “for the praise of his glorious grace” (Eph 1:6). If we wish to commit ourselves fully and perseveringly, we need to leave behind every other motivation. This is our definitive, deepest and greatest motivation, the ultimate reason and meaning behind all we do: the glory of the Father which Jesus sought at every moment of his life. As the Son, he rejoices eternally to be “close to the Father’s heart” (Jn 1:18). If we are missionaries, it is primarily because Jesus told us that “by this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit” (Jn 15:8). Beyond all our own preferences and interests, our knowledge and motivations, we evangelize for the greater glory of the Father who loves us.’

St. Paul, in that marvelous passage to the Corinthian church, mixes his metaphors by telling us that we are a “letter from Christ,” a letter written “not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God,” not on stone tablets as Moses experienced on the mountain, but on our hearts. He also says that we are being changed into the image of Jesus from one degree of “glory” to another. That sounds wonderful, and it is. But remember that Jesus’s throne of glory was the cross. And that’s how we go from one glory degree to another, through bearing suffering and humiliation as He did.

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