Thursday of 17th Week in Course 2017
Joy of the Gospel
Today’s Gospel is a reprise of part of the Gospel from last Sunday. There will be a division at the end of time, at the general judgement. Each of us will die and face what we call the “particular” judgement, based on whether we die with the love of God in our hearts, a love that manifests itself in right worship, right teaching and right relationships with our brothers and sisters, especially the weak, poor, unborn, sick and disabled.
What I would like to focus on momentarily is the reading from Exodus, and the relationship of God’s presence with the tabernacle or tent in the wilderness. ‘Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.’ And Moses was not able then to enter the tabernacle. The Church Fathers read this in light of the Annunciation. Gabriel told Mary, ‘Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you!’ And to her question of how she might bear a son when she was a consecrated virgin, he replied: ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.’ The Shekinah, the cloud, was a sign of the presence of the Holy Spirit, who also filled the womb of the virgin Mary with the presence of the Son. What began to happen then was a miracle, what I call the miracle, the assumption of human form by God Himself in the person of Jesus, the Messiah. The miracle grew slowly, quietly over nine months before His revelation to the whole world.
The Holy Father writes about the invisible growth of the seed-Word of God in humanity: ‘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!’
A listening heart is critical if we are to participate in this mystery. Each day we should ask the Holy Spirit to bring those into our lives whom we might journey with in their, and our, search for the face of God. We need to implore the Spirit to overshadow us so that His will may be done on earth.