This weekly commentary on the Mass has taken us to the Responsorial Psalm, coming after the Old Testament reading. Last week I talked about how the O.T. as a whole in a sense signifies the entire experience of humanity ‘B.C.’, before Christ, the natural state of man in all his messy jumbled-up pastiche of good and evil, sickness and health, strength and weakness, virtue and sin.
And all of this is met throughout the Old Testament, and throughout our life, by the intervention of God, the action of God finding us where we are, however bloody and brutal it may be, to take us step by step to where He is. This is the whole meaning of grace in our theological language and in our lives.
Grace is the healing hand of God extending outwards to the human race, individually and communally, ultimately and essentially in the action of Jesus Christ made present by the gift of the Spirit. It finds us where we are now—whatever aspect of ‘B.C.’ there is yet in us, to bear us and sustain us into the life of the kingdom, the innermost communion of the Trinity.
I have been pondering quite a bit this summer that our capacity to receive and benefit from this constant outreach of God’s grace into our lives hinges largely upon this word that we are at in the liturgy. Namely, the word response. God is acting, always. But His action only finds a home in us and is effective in us in the measure with which we respond to it.
And so we have in the liturgy, after the reading, the responsory. There is a basic pattern of Christian life laid down here. God’s truth, and our response. God’s action, and our answering action. Our belief, of course, is that even this answering action is itself only possible by grace, but there is nonetheless the innermost core of human freedom (mystery of mysteries, truly) where we have to choose what our fate will be in these matters.
I am doing a whole series on the psalms, of course, on this blog every Monday, so won’t say too much about them specifically here. The response offered in them, though, is telling—the psalms contain every possible shade of human response to God: supplication, praise, thanksgiving, lamentation, complaint, sober reflection, submission.
The key thing here is that they, and we, respond. And this needs to be the fundamental shape of our life, then. God is acting each day upon us and on our behalf. There are graces flowing down upon and all around us continually, right now as I write this and you read it. God is doing something, right now.
Our entry into and cooperation with whatever God is doing right now hinges upon our capacity to respond to it. This is the deep meaning of the Madonna House spirituality of the ‘duty of the moment’, that as we attend to whatever love is asking of us at any given moment we enter an encounter with God in Christ and so His work in us advances to completion.
It is also the deep significance of prayer in our life, not a constant ‘gimme, gimme, gimme’ of selfish wants, but our fundamental response to what has already been ‘given, given, given.’ Our praise, our gratitude, our surrender, our yes to all of it. Like Mary at the Annunciation, God continually sends an ‘angel’, a messenger announcing to us the deed He is doing right now in our lives, in the duty of the moment. But our response, like hers, is necessary.
Fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum—let it be done to me according to Thy Word. Call, and response; action, and answering action. The work of God, and the work of man in cooperation with it. Jesus, and Mary. This is the pattern of life, and it is expressed liturgically in this moment of the Responsorial Psalm.