Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
St. Dominic Church, NOLA
Paul writes to the Corinthians, revealing to them one of the scariest truths I've ever heard, “. . .we are God's co-workers; [. . .] God's building. . . .” Upon being reminded of this scary truth, my first thought is, “No, no. I'm one of His more difficult building projects. Over budget, behind schedule, and poorly maintained.” But then it dawns on me that God will not build me w/o me; He will not remove my freedom to participate willingly in my own construction. When and where I fail, I fail to work with God's divine blueprint. How do I get back on schedule, on budget, and well-maintained? Jesus cures Simon's mother-in-law. Others with various illnesses came to him and “he laid his hands on each of them and cured them.” So impressed were the crowds that “they tried to prevent him from leaving them.” But Jesus was sent for another reason. He says to them, "To the other towns also I must proclaim the good news of the Kingdom of God. . .” When did he proclaim the Good News in this town? He didn't preach or teach. There were no reported debates. So, how exactly did he proclaim the Good News? “He laid his hands on each of them and cured them.”
If you too are over budget, behind schedule, and poorly maintained as a building project of the Lord, let me suggest a possible reason for your decrepitude: you have made too much of the difference btw “proclaiming the Good News” and “doing the Good News.” I mean, you have either placed Being a Christian over Working as Christian or Working as a Christian over Being a Christian. Simply being as a Christian is well and good. But where are your works? What legacy of charitable action do you leave behind? How much real, living hope have you sown? Simply working as a Christian is well and good also. But where do you place your trust? Why are you working so hard for the poor, the oppressed, the sick? Are you more than a religiousy social worker? In our gospel this evening, Jesus shows us that proclaiming the Good News is doing the Good News. Not simply saying stuff about the gospel but actually working in mercy, charity, and hope. And none of this is possible if we do not acknowledge and celebrate the Christ as our Lord, One to Whom we are obedient. The foundational motivation for all gospel labor must be to give glory to God so that His mercy to sinners may be made evident, plain as day. Every act of gospel labor is precisely an act of gospel labor b/c it is done for the sake for Christ.
If you are a faithful soul, a thoroughly convicted believer in the Gospel and you are still struggling with persistent sin, dry in prayer, consider this: you aren't working with God to build a better you. If you are a zealous defender of the oppressed, a totally committed activist for justice and you still find yourself frustrated, angry, depressed by failure, consider this: you aren't trusting God, not giving Him the glory through Christ. Catholics can rattle off the phrase “word and deed” faster than most of us can blink. But do we hear what we are saying? The revelation of God in Christ Jesus is given to us in and through his words and in and through his deeds.* Not one OR the other. Both. With ears to hear, we listen to his teaching. With eyes to see, we watch his behavior. What does Jesus say? What does Jesus do? Being a follower of Christ and working as a follower of Christ is always, always about the gospel word-deed. An act done with God. With God an act done. More than His projects, we are fellow project managers. We are co-workers with God for His glory.
* "This plan of revelation is realized by deeds and words having in inner unity: the deeds wrought by God in the history of salvation manifest and confirm the teaching and realities signified by the words, while the words proclaim the deeds and clarify the mystery contained in them. By this revelation then, the deepest truth about God and the salvation of man shines out for our sake in Christ, who is both the mediator and the fullness of all revelation" (Dei verbum 2).___________________
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