Is God Pro Choice 1




Patriarchal Basilica of St. Peter
Monday April 18, 2005


Readings: Isa 61: 1–3a. 6a. 8bÂ-9;
Eph 4.11-16;
Jn 15: 9-17

In this responsible hour, we pay special attention to what the Lord tells us in His own words. From the three readings I would like to select just a few passages that concern us directly at a moment like this.

The First Reading offers a prophetic image of the figure of the Messiah - an image that takes its full meaning from the moment Jesus, reading this text in the synagogue of Nazareth, says: "Today this scripture has been fulfilled" (Lk 4.21). At the center of the prophetic text we come across a word that - at least at first glance - seems contradictory. The Messiah, speaking of himself, says that he was sent to "proclaim a year of grace from the Lord, a day of retribution from our God" (Isa 61.2). We hear with joy the announcement of the year of mercy: divine mercy sets a limit to evil - the Holy Father told us. Jesus Christ is divine mercy in person: to meet Christ means to meet the mercy of God. The commission of Christ has become our commission through the priestly anointing; we are called to proclaim "the year of the Lord's mercy" not only with words but with life and with the effective signs of the sacraments. But what does Isaiah mean when he announces the "day of retribution by our God"? In Nazareth, when Jesus read the text of the Prophet, Jesus did not utter these words - he concluded with the announcement of the Year of Mercy. Was that perhaps the cause of the outrage that arose after his sermon? We do not know it. In any event, the Lord made his authentic commentary on these words through death on the cross. "He carried our sins with his body on the wood of the cross," says St. Peter (1 Petr 2.24). And St. Paul writes to the Galatians: “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us; for it says in the Scriptures: Cursed is everyone who hangs on the stake. Jesus Christ redeemed us so that through him the blessings of Abraham might be bestowed upon the Gentiles and that we might receive the promised Spirit by faith "(Gal 3,13).

The mercy of Christ is not a grace that can be obtained cheaply; it must not be misunderstood as the trivialization of evil. Christ bears in his body and in his soul the whole burden of evil, all its destructive power. He burns and transforms evil in suffering, in the fire of his suffering love. The day of vengeance and the year of mercy coincide in the Easter mystery, in the dead and risen Christ. This is God's retribution: He himself suffers for us in the person of the Son. The more we are touched by the mercy of the Lord, the more we show solidarity with his suffering, and become ready to "what is still lacking in the sufferings of Christ" (Col 1.24), to be supplemented in our body.

Let's move on to the second reading, the letter to the Ephesians. This is essentially about three things: firstly, the offices and charisms in the Church as gifts from the risen Lord who is ascended to heaven; then about the ripening of faith and knowledge of the Son of God as a prerequisite and content of unity in the body of Christ; and finally, to participate together in the growth of the body of Christ, that is, in the transformation of the world into communion with the Lord.

We dwell on only two points. The first is the path to the "maturity of Christ", as it is called somewhat simplistically in the Italian text. According to the Greek text, we should speak more precisely of the "measure of the fullness of Christ" which we are called to attain in order to be truly adults in the faith. We are not supposed to remain children in a state of immaturity. What does it mean to be minors in the faith? St. Paul replies: It means "to be a game of waves, to and fro from every conflict of opinions" (Eph 4, 14). A very current description!

How many beliefs have we got to know in these last decades, how many ideological currents, how many ways of thinking. The small boat of the thinking of many Christians is not infrequently swayed by these waves, thrown from one extreme to the other: from Marxism to liberalism to libertinism; from collectivism to radical individualism; from atheism to vague religious mysticism; from agnosticism to syncretism, and so on. New sects arise every day, and what St. Paul said about deceit among men and about misleading cunning (cf. Eph 4.14). Having a clear belief according to the creed of the church is often branded as fundamentalism, whereas relativism, which is "drifted by the gust of some doctrine", appears to be the only contemporary attitude today. The result is a dictatorship of relativism, which recognizes nothing as final and allows only one's own ego and its desires to count as the ultimate measure.

However, we have a different measure: the Son of God, the true man. He is the measure of true humanism. "Growing up" is not a belief that follows the waves of fashion and the latest in novelty; adult and mature is a faith deeply rooted in friendship with Christ. This friendship makes us open to everything that is good and gives us the criteria to distinguish between true and false, between deception and truth. We must allow this adult faith to mature; to this faith we must lead the flock of Christ. And this belief - faith alone - creates unity and is realized in love. To this end, St. Paul - in contrast to the constant changes of mind of those who are tossed to and fro by the waves like children - a beautiful word: do the truth in love, as the basic formula of Christian existence. Truth and love coincide in Christ. As we draw closer to Christ, truth and love merge in our lives. Love without truth would be blind; the truth without love would be like "a noisy drum" (1 Cor 13,1).

We now come to the Gospel, from which I only take two small comments. The Lord addresses these wonderful words to us: "I no longer call you servants - I have rather called you friends" (Joh 15, 15). So often we have the feeling that we - as it is true - are just useless servants (cf. Lk 17.10). And yet the Lord calls us friends, he makes us his friends, he gives us his friendship. The Lord defines friendship in two ways. There are no secrets between friends: Christ tells us everything he hears from the Father; he gives us his full trust and with this trust also knowledge. He reveals his face, his heart to us. He shows us his loving care for us, his passionate love that goes to the foolishness of the cross. He entrusts himself to us, he gives us the power to speak through his ego: "This is my body", "I release you". He entrusts his body, the Church, to us. He entrusts his truth to our weak spirits, our weak hands - the mystery of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit; the mystery of God who "loved the world so much that he gave his only Son" (Joh 3.16). He made us his friends - and what answer do we give?

The second element with which Jesus defines friendship is the conformity of will. »Idem velle – idem nolle«Was also the definition of friendship for the Romans. "You are my friends if you do what I tell you" (Joh 15.14). Friendship with Christ corresponds to what the third petition of the Our Father expresses: "Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven". In the hour of Gethsemane, Jesus transformed our stubborn human will into a will that corresponds to and is connected to the divine will. He suffered the whole drama of our autonomy - and precisely by placing our will in God's hands, he gives us true freedom: "But not as I want, but as you want" (Mt 26.39). Our redemption takes place in this agreement of will: be friends of Jesus, become friends of God. The more we love Jesus and the more we know him, the more our true freedom grows and the joy of being redeemed grows. Thank you Jesus for your friendship!

The other element of the Gospel that I wanted to refer to is Jesus' speech on fruit-bearing: "I have appointed you that you should arise and bear fruit and that your fruit should remain" (Joh 15.16). Here appears the dynamic of the existence of the Christian, the apostle: I have appointed you to set out. We must be animated by a sacred unrest: the unrest to bring everyone the gift of faith, of friendship with Christ. In truth, the love and friendship of God has been given to us so that it can also reach others. We received the faith to pass it on to others; we are priests to serve others. And we have to produce fruit that will last. All people want to leave a trace that will last. But what is left? Not the money. The buildings do not remain either; neither are the books. After a certain, more or less long time, all of these things disappear. The only thing that remains forever is the human soul, the human being created by God for eternity. The fruit that remains is therefore what we have sown in human souls - love, knowledge; the gesture that can touch the heart; the word that opens the soul to the joy of the Lord. So let's go and ask the Lord to help us bear fruit, fruit that will last. Only in this way will the earth be transformed from the valley of tears into a garden of God.

Finally, we come back to the letter to the Ephesians. The letter says - in the words of Psalm 68 - that when Christ ascended to heaven, "gave gifts to men" (Eph 4.8). The winner distributes gifts. And these gifts are apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers. Our ministry is a gift from Christ to the people in order to build up his body - the new world -. So let us live our office as a gift from Christ to people! But at this hour we pray above all to the Lord that, after the great gift of Pope John Paul II, he will again give us a Shepherd according to his heart, a Shepherd who will lead us to the knowledge of Christ, to his love, to true joy. Amen.