The resumption of our Church life is in full swing. School has begun. Prep will begin soon. Vanspec will begin this week. The Knights of Columbus, both assembly and council, are installing their officers for the coming year. Bible study resumes in just over a week, and Mission Ablaze is preparing to run, yet again, a Life in the Spirit seminar. All our groups are resuming their respective meetings and ministries.
It would hardly be surprising if here and there, in the hearts of the people involved in our various ministries, there is a feeling of heaviness of heart, of inertia, of lethargy. Sometimes it’s hard to get the big wheel turning again, after it’s been stopped for a while. What can help us to overcome this initial feeling of inertia? Remembering the reasons why we do the things we do strikes me as being very helpful.
In today’s first reading, we hear Isaiah promising that our God will come and save us, and that on that day, among other acts of redemption, the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped and the tongue of the mute shall sing for joy. In the gospel, we see Jesus, precisely, enabling a deaf man to hear, and healing his speech impediment. Clear indication that with Jesus, the time of the fulfilment of the prophetic promises, the time of the ushering in of the Kingdom of God, have begun. We are living in that time of fulfilment that Jesus ushered in with his ministry of healing and preaching. We are the Body of Christ, his ongoing ministry of ushering in the Kingdom through preaching and healing until the full irruption of the Kingdom of God on the last day. Our mission as Church is fundamentally one of ushering in the Kingdom, a mission of redemption, in many, many shapes and forms. Redemption in the form of new hope, through shared faith, redemption in the form of healing, seldom physical or psychological, but very frequently, healing of hearts, memories, minds. We are Christ, extending a redeeming hand to others.
Nothing less than this work of redemption is the reason, the goal underlying everything we do as Church. Whether we teach catechism, or deck our church with beautiful flowers, or set up lights in the trees for lighting during the seasons of Advent and Christmas, whether we run a Life in the Spirit Seminar, or the RCIA, or Alpha, or the Christian Life Program, whether we serve coffee after mass or visit a stranger who has become a friend in one of our nursing homes. All of it is ordered to the extension of God’s redemptive hand toward the people of our world, toward the people who inhabit this place and this time.
This is as good a time as any to remind ourselves of this fact, re-affirmed strongly by the Second Vatican Council: the Church doesn’t exist for itself. Of course, the first beneficiaries of the Church’s existence are those who are a part of it. But the Church exists for the sake of the world, out of mercy for the world. The reason the Church exists is the same as the reason why the Son of God became man: to bring God’s redeeming gospel and redeeming actions to our world. We, and all our ministries, are a simple continuance of the presence and ministry of Jesus in our world.
It kind of takes your breath away, doesn’t it. This is the reason why we do all the things we do. By the grace of God, may the abiding remembrance of the reason why we do everything we do in Church, give us wings to carry on, to do it well, and to do it with joy. And most importantly, may God crown our efforts with success. May he give us wings, and make our ministries fruitful, for his glory, and for the salvation of the world.