A Word about the Readings
by Father Gethin
(The readings may be found here)
Our lessons this Sunday direct our thoughts and prayers towards the good outcome of our faith, summed up in St. Paul’s wonderful phrase, “the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man for the common good.” In this is the whole sense of our Christian mission and calling, both within, and outside, the Church. Thinking back to the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit descended and inspired the first Christian community with divine goodness, Paul wants us to see how that dramatic event was not a matter of the blessing and transformation of individual lives only, but more fundamentally a blessing and transformation of the whole faithful company of Christ’s followers. “Now there are diversities of gifts,” says Paul, “but the same Spirit.”
Externally, from the point of view of our individual character and experience, it may appear that we have many differing versions of, and ways of journeying through, the Christian life. Paul reminds us that we need to see how those differences are not a matter of my faith held distinctly from your faith, or my gifts as separate from and unrelated to your gifts; all things that belong to the Gospel constitute a living whole, which is the Church itself, Christ’s spiritual body. In one way this seems perfectly obvious. Of course we are a community constituted by the spiritual grace and mercies of God, by whose Son we are all redeemed and in Whom we all rest the hope of our eternal glory.
But at the same time, recalling this reality in the midst of our daily struggles and labours is not always so easy. In so many moments of our lives, it is easy and natural to think of ourselves only as distinct people, separate from the stories and lives of our neighbours. And in one sense, it is not only natural, but necessary, for us to hold this view of ourselves: we must each bear the responsibility for our actions, and take care to uphold the gifts of faith which God has given us. But that is only one side of the story. The other side, the crucial, and ultimately blessed side, is that all our individuality is created and redeemed in order for us all to share and live in the one common life of God, which is the life of holy charity.
Our Lord’s tears over Jerusalem in the Gospel highlight just how profound is the cost, should we forget that life: “If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace!” They had forgotten ‘the common good’, seeking instead for individual gain and glamour, selling for personal profit in the temple instead of holding each other up in prayer. In the end it would be the undoing of that once great city. So we must be vigilant and faithful, not only in our personal prayers and professions, but in our devotion to the calling to be God’s holy people, a body set apart for Himself, united in the suffering of our Saviour. Pray for one and other.