19 January 2007

The Work is Bigger...

2nd Week OT (F): Hebrews 8.6-13 and Mark 3.13-19
Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
Serra Club, Church of the Incarnation


Jesus summons those whom he wants and they come to him. So simple. Jesus calls; we answer. He asks; we reply. He orders; we obey. We have from him direction, purpose, limits, and identity. We have from him a mission, a ministry, authority, and truth. His Spirit is among us, together with us, here now to hold us up, to bring us to fruition and harvest and to see us work at his work—imperfectly, incompletely, yes!—but to see us work at his work together despite our shortfalls, despite our mistakes, and despite our sometimes Belly-Button views of the world. You correct my errors. They pick up our slack. We get done what she can’t. She manages what he refuses to do. And I handle the stuff no one else will. And all of us together get it done; we complete the work Jesus has given us to do. None of us alone can do what Christ has asked all of us to do together.

Jesus knew this, so he called twelve of his disciples and appointed them apostles. He turned students into teachers with a call and gave them the authority—the legitimacy, the power, the clout—they needed to get out there and preach, to get out there and bring not just a word of healing but actual healing, not just a word of reconciliation with God but actual reconciliation. They were not empowered to deliver a message about Christ; they were empowered to deliver Christ himself. We hear their names listed so that we know that twelve men were called, twelve actual persons were summoned to the mountain. Not mythic figures. Not heroes from misty history. Not personified virtues or angels. But men. Meat and bone men with fathers and mothers and siblings and nationalities and careers. Men with stories, with pasts and with present problems. Jesus wanted these twelve to walk his Word around the world. And they did. Together.

The reading from Hebrews this morning makes it perfectly clear that the new covenant, though a declaration of the obsolesce of the old covenant, is still a covenant with a people not a person, with a nation not a citizen: “I will put my laws in their minds and I will write them upon their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.” One God, many people. One God, many priests, many prophets, many kings. All those priests, prophets and kings—all of us!—will accomplish the Lord’s work in the world working together. One Body in Christ. Christ’s most excellent ministry, as mediator for us before the Father, is a ministry to us as his body and for us as his brothers and sisters. He mediates a better covenant with better promises but still a covenant with the nation, the race, the Church.

The work we have been given to do here—the promotion of vocations to the priesthood and religious life—is precisely the work Christ accomplished in calling the apostles. Christ summons those whom he wants. We help those summoned come to him. This is not work for one man, one woman, one priest. It is not even work for a small group of talented men and women. What WE take on here is the work of the Spirit in drawing out the vocation, the call, and strengthening the hearts of those called to climb that mountain to Christ for their mission. This work of ours is bigger than me. It’s bigger than the UD Serra Club. It’s bigger than any one bishop or any single pope. This work of strengthening the called to answer Yes to God is the work of the Church—all the priests, prophets, and kings; all the baptized and all those with open eyes and open ears. None of us alone can do what Christ has asked all of us to do together.

Whatever it is that distracts you from your holy work, put it on this altar. Sacrifice it. Give it up to God. And get back to work!

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