Monday, April 28, 2008

Monday in the 6th Week of Easter
Deeds of Delight

Readings: Acts 16:11-15; Psalm 149:1b-2, 3-4, 5-6a and 9b; John 15:26—16:4a
Pictures: CC Lab 2112

The season of Easter is fast coming to a close. The great feast of Pentecost is only two weeks away. Throughout this time we have been immersing ourselves in the awesome Mystery of Christ’s death and resurrection. We’ve been reflecting on its implications for our daily living. And to help us to do this, we have been meditating upon the Acts of the Apostles, Luke’s account of the deeds of the early Christian community after the Resurrection.

In the gospel today, Jesus offers us a useful summary of what we have been considering. As he bids farewell to his disciples, he tells them that they will soon testify to him. And this is precisely what we have seen the early Christians doing. This is precisely the crux of the acts of the apostles. They testify. They bear witness to the power of Christ’s death and resurrection. In today’s first reading, Paul and companions extend this work of witnessing even to the territories of Macedonia. As we continue to meditate upon these acts of the early church, we should, of course, find ourselves challenged to do the same in our own particular circumstances.

Even so, the activity of the early Christians is only one part of the story. This is made clear especially in our readings today. For, in the gospel, Jesus speaks not only of the testimony of the disciples, but primarily of the testimony of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, he will testify to me… And, in the first reading, we see the marvelous effects of the Spirit’s testimony in Philippi, when the hearts of Lydia and her family are opened to receive Paul’s message. Evidently, the book upon which we have been meditating, as our first reading at Mass, might just as well have been titled the Acts of the Spirit.

But what practical difference does this make? Whether or not the Spirit is active or not, aren’t we still duty-bound to testify to the Crucified and Risen Lord in our daily lives? Perhaps. However, while a deeper appreciation of the acts of the Spirit may not change what we are called to do, might it not change the manner in which we do it, not to mention the atmosphere in which it is done?

Realizing that the work of witnessing to Christ is primarily the Spirit’s initiative, does it not imply that our calling to do the same cannot be carried out in exactly the same way a corporation might arrive at a five-year plan for its own development? For, if it is indeed true that the Spirit calls the shots, then isn’t the challenge for us first to discern the Spirit’s intentions, as Paul and companions have been doing, so as to better collaborate in the Spirits efforts?

And even more than prompting a change in tactics, might not a deeper appreciation for the Spirit’s activity not also effect a change in attitude? For example, not for us is the perspective that emphasizes doing one’s duty in a purely functional and legalistic way. Not for us is the approach that often mires people in painful feelings of guilt at having fallen short of an abstract ideal. Not for us is the anxiety-producing notion that God is constantly looking down judgmentally upon us, ready to find fault with our performance. Aren’t these perspectives more likely to lead us to fall away than to persevere?

Instead, seeing our work of witnessing to the Lord as primarily a collaboration in the Spirit’s enterprise, might our witnessing not be carried out from an experience of the very thing that we proclaimed in the psalm response today? The Lord takes delight in his people. To testify to the Lord is to revel in that delight, and to share it with others. And this same delight fosters perseverance even in the face of persecution. As Jesus tells his disciples: I have told you this so that you may not fall away…

How truly Spirit-filled, how deeply delightful, is our experience of testifying to Christ in the world today?

1 comment:

  1. The work of witnessing to Christ is primarily the Spirit’s initiative inviting us to collaborate with Him. Therefore, as Fr Chris rightly pointed out, five year plans are out of the question unless one is nubile enough to adapt and make adjustments.

    This is where some of the internal tension in me wells up: the desire to plan and to be in control whereas the Spirit acts in totally unpredictable ways. However, there are two things I know for sure:

    1. Actions speak a lot louder than words. The people that we interact with in our daily lives, believers and non-believers alike, do not always acknowledge it, but they can sense the Crucified and Risen Lord through our speech, actions, attitudes and behaviors. It is a known fact that children learn more from the example of their parents and adults than through any formal instruction.

    2. Witnessing as a Christian is a lonely endeavour. We need like-minded, Spirit-filled companions. That's why Jesus sent out the disciples in pairs. That's why Jesus gave us a faith community.

    "Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of Your faithful Whom You delight in, and enkindle in them the fire of Your love."


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