A Word about the Readings
by Father Gethin
(The readings may be found here)
Last Sunday we heard the voice of Jesus calling us to the work of the Gospel, “I will make you fishers of men.” By the miraculous catch of fishes He revealed to Peter, James and John, and to us, how the mercies of God surpass our human power and understanding as much as heaven surpasses earth. And as the children of that new and heavenly way, so must our life and witness surpass the world’s expectation. As St. Paul explains in his letter to the church in Rome, “we were buried with him by baptism into death; that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”
There is always a temptation to limit that new life to ourselves, to find in the Gospel such grace as will overcome our demons and make us into those good people whom we and the world can admire, but this is not sufficient. Nor should we give way to the opposite temptation, that our individual lives and souls do not greatly matter, so long as the Gospel is preached and the church made to flourish. The truth is, we must subject ourselves to God and His mercies in both ways, for both are necessary dimensions of our rebirth in Christ. And the key to achieving both is to realize how they ultimately coincide in the calling to be evangelists, to be messengers of the Good News.
We know that salvation does not merely come to individuals, as we heard two weeks ago, how the Father seeks to redeem and restore the whole creation, which groans for the good working of His grace—just as in the beginning it was the whole creation, taken together, that God exalted as ‘very good’. All things are subject to His mercy, and according to that mercy, each member of creation is made to be good in itself, and very good in communion with the whole created order. Our personal holiness, in other words, is rightly called holy not simply by virtue of upholding the law, and giving praise to God. To be a holy steward of God’s love is to reflect the gracious purpose of His mercy, by which we ourselves have been saved. First we are set apart from the sinful world, turned to receive the healing graces of our Saviour, but then, as we enter into that new life and healing, we find how we belong to its labour, which is the beautiful event that we call ‘ministry’.
Today’s Gospel describes the miraculous way which must always motivate and lie at the heart of Christian ministry—which is just another way of saying, our Christian life: “JESUS said, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.” It is almost impossible not to suppose that this is the high-water mark of the truly saintly; no doubt it remains a degree of goodness to which we must all aspire, but only the truly holy actually attain it. It is hard enough to love our friends, let alone our enemies. Yet we must recognize the point for what it is: our new life in Christ is precisely the life which overcomes the enmity between souls. As we rejoice in His Resurrection, and as we spend time in His loving presence—which is the life of holiness—we find how we as His body are constituted with the same goodness that triumphed over sin and death on the Cross. And so here is the extraordinary realization for us, similar to a certain lawyer’s question, ‘who is my neighbour?’ Who is my enemy? It is everyone, including my own self. Until the day we are brought into the eternal glory of God’s heavenly kingdom, we all fall short of the very-goodness of community, and as such, we oppose one and other by selfish ill-will. And we must always be aware, it is those closest and dearest to us who have the power to hurt us most deeply. And our work is to meet each other, all souls made in God’s image, not according to the ways we betray one and other, but according to the forgiveness that opens to us the doors of the Kingdom. Everyone is invited to enter; we are the messengers of the invitation. How the story is worked out in each of our souls, is a matter of grace between us and the Lord. To Him be the Glory!