Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Easter 7, Tuesday


Readings: Acts 19:1-8; John 16:29-33

In today’s Gospel, Jesus lays it all out there:
“this is eternal life,
that they should know you, the only true God,
and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ.”
This knowledge,
and this knowledge alone,
is the pearl of great price,
for which we should gladly
cast aside all earthly
wisdom,
honors,
and attachments,
in order to obtain it;
not simply to know about God,
but to know God:
in this life by faith
and in our heavenly homeland
by the light of glory.

But this knowing of God
as the goal of our living
also suggests something
about the shape of our living.
St. Paul writes,
“I consider life of no importance to me,
if only I may finish my course
and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus,
to bear witness to the Gospel of God’s grace.”
We are not simply to contemplate God in faith
so as to one day contemplate him in glory;
no, we are to spend our lives profligately
in bearing witness
to the truth we have contemplated,
a truth that asks of us
nothing less than everything
if we are to live in gratitude for so great a gift.

I sometimes fear that our theology
is more concerned
with blunting the force
of the radical demands of gratitude
than it is with honing
the two-edged sword of God’s word,
so that it may divide
“soul from spirit, joints from marrow.”
We tell people to take the Gospel seriously
but not always literally,
to have an adequate hermeneutic
and avoid fundamentalism,
to recognize the presence of grace
in everyday life.

These things are of course true, in a certain sense.
But we theologians can forget that our patron,
St. Thomas Aquinas,
when asked by the crucified Christ
what he desired as reward, responded,
non nisi te, Domine—nothing but you, Lord.
We can forget that in his scholarly labors
Thomas poured himself out,
not in order to impress his peers
or to be recognized for his brilliance,
but in order, like Paul,
“to bear witness to the Gospel of God’s grace,”
to call others to lives of gratitude and generosity.
The genius and the holiness of Thomas
was to cling to Christ crucified and to him alone,
and yet to find in him
all that is good and true in creation,
to find in him the gift of eternal life
that calls us to gratitude.

We are called, as students and teachers,
to follow in the footsteps of Paul and Thomas,
not seeking to explain away
the radical call of the Gospel,
but to take with absolute seriousness
Jesus’ teaching
that eternal life is nothing else
than knowing God in Christ,
and to spend our lives in the ministry
of bearing witness to God’s grace.
May God’s Holy Spirit
make us grateful
for the burden of this ministry.