“We are heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ sharing his sufferings so as to share his glory"
For some, there is a sense of optimism at this time as we seem to be coming towards the end of the pandemic. Also, the sunny weather contributes to this and there is, for some, a palpable sense of relief. Perhaps also there is a time now for lessons and questions to be asked and the central one for us, which will not come out in a public enquiry, is where has God been in all this? Did He permit it? And, as Christians and disciples who are called to be in the middle of it all, has it strengthened our faith?
First, there has to be a readiness to embrace our helplessness. We are not masters of all that we survey and death, suffering and pain are all part of the human journey. However, they need to be sanctified, to be made holy. Saint Paul in his letter to the Romans tells us that when we share the sufferings of Christ then we will also share in his glory. This demands of us acceptance, obedience and surrender. At a very deep level, we are called to embrace the pain and the challenges of this time.
This is the journey of today’s feast namely one that comes from the heart of the Trinity, flows into the world and then embraces us in love to take us into the heart of the Trinity. This journey explains the discipleship and the work of evangelisation which the gospel today calls us to. Christ invites us and his disciples to go into the world and to baptise all nations. It is thus that we and they bring light into the darkness of the world. In many ways, the intention must be to bring light into darkness.
That is what the last fifteen months have been about. It is when we fall into the heart of Jesus that this circular motion of love happens: he gives us love, we bring love to others and we are joined more intensely to the Sacred Heart. Let us also not forget that we start the month of the Sacred Heart on Tuesday.
Last Wednesday, we celebrated the feast of Saint Philip Neri, who knew much about darkness. He lived with plague and poverty, the contradictions and scandals of the church, with the recent attractions of Protestantism sweeping up Catholics at a time when the city of Rome had turned its back upon God. In his life, God used Saint Philip Neri as an instrument to change and transform the city of Rome. It was often the case that he went to the catacombs to pray, fast, do penance and keep vigil. This was in obedience and surrender to God and indeed, in those same catacombs, his heart was literally enlarged. He became an extraordinary instrument and manifestation of the freedom of the spirit. All that mattered to him as he ministered to the people of Rome was to show the love of God and to do His Will.
For many, during this time there has been an emptiness but, despite it all, we have to embrace that emptiness with the love of God. In the first reading, we meet Moses who had taken of his sandals because he was on holy ground. As God used Moses, so he uses us, as we ask for the grace to let the love of God be present in the emptiness of our lives. We can speak of many miracles and blessings which have happened at this time. The presence of good and evil have been much clearer and manifest. As much has been taken away, there has remained only the love of God.
In today’s gospel, the disciples are invited to go and baptise and evangelise. Some, we hear, were hesitant. Philip in Rome was not hesitant but I must confess to my own hesitancy. I have found myself complaining that I cannot go to the pub, watch the cricket or travel freely. However, in my examen, I need to ask how I have filled that emptiness with the love of God. In all this soul-searching, we learn that God never deserts us and it is in that emptiness, which we can also call surrender and obedience, that we meet his love and so bring it to others. In that journey, which is a journey of the heart of the Trinity, like the disciples and Saint Philip, we share in his sufferings so we shall share in his glory.