Fr. Philip N. Powell, OP
We live by promise. Not only the possibilities of our unfolding potential—all the gifts we have yet used and perfected—but we also live in the world by assurances, pledges; for us, by divine guarantee. And these are not contracts. Viable contracts require “consideration,” that is, an exchange of goods or services, cash for product or merchandise for labor. The divine guarantees we live by, the promises that sustain us in being are not tit-for-tat bonds made between equals. We do not “deal” with God. And God does not “deal” with us. When we answer in faith our deepest longing, our blood and bone need for completion in God; when we pitch ourselves head first, arms opened into the life His Christ has made possible for us, we commit ourselves to the Truth of His Word. That Word—creating, forgiving, perfecting—abides with us as our fire, our breath, our voice, so that when we hear Him call, “Jacob! Jacob!” or “Bob! Bob!” or “Mary! Mary!” we may speak back with all the weight of an ancient promise: “Here I am, Lord.”
The Lord calls Jacob, and Jacob answers, “Here I am.” Then the Lord says, “I am God, the God of your father. Do not be afraid to go down to
Let’s get a proper grasp on this idea. So, at the moment I am about to die for the faith, God’s Spirit possesses my body like some modern Delphic Oracle, and uses my mouth and tongue to argue my defense? No. OK. So, at the moment of martyrdom, I am inspired by God, in a flood of overwhelming emotion, to compose a lyrical defense of my faith, which will later be said to have been “God speaking through me”? No. OK. So, what then? As a defense against persecution, Jesus teaches his Apostles to be “shrewd as serpents and simple as doves.” Shrewdness—being clever, wise—is a gift that needs practice to stay sharp. Simplicity of heart and mind—the uncomplicated easiness of trust—is a gift as well, also needing practice. When wisdom and simplicity are practiced daily, sharpened by every word and every deed, the abiding Word is clarified, tuned more tightly; our trust in his promises evolves into a boosted signal, into a sign of thriving grace. And the words that we speak under trial can only be from the Word b/c we are—persevering in abiding wisdom and simplicity—we are the Word Himself.
You will be hated because you trust the name of Jesus. That’s a promise. Not a contract. And when and if that hate turns to violence—state-sponsored or not—you will already have the Word with you to witness. This is not Jesus the Network Server downloading SpiritDefense 3.0 onto your spiritual hardrive. It is you—faithful, simple, wise, loyal to Christ’s teachings, loving—you, with the Spirit, a witness to the strength, the endurance of our Father’s promise of permanent presence among us. He has called His church to holiness. With everything we have, we must answer in obedience, “Here we are, Lord!”
Pic credit: Whitt Krauss, Martyrdom of St. Cecilia