Sunday, May 27, 2012

If Only We Knew the Gift of God

Certainly we cannot “build” the Kingdom of God by our own efforts—what we build will always be the kingdom of man with all the limitations proper to our human nature. The Kingdom of God is a gift, and precisely because of this, it is great and beautiful, and constitutes the response to our hope. And we cannot—to use the classical expression—”merit” Heaven through our works. Heaven is always more than we could merit, just as being loved is never something “merited”, but always a gift.

However, even when we are fully aware that Heaven far exceeds what we can merit, it will always be true that our behavior is not indifferent before God and therefore is not indifferent for the unfolding of history. We can open ourselves and the world and allow God to enter: we can open ourselves to truth, to love, to what is good. This is what the saints did, those who, as “God's fellow workers”, contributed to the world's salvation (cf. 1 Cor 3:9; 1 Th 3:2).

We can free our life and the world from the poisons and contaminations that could destroy the present and the future. We can uncover the sources of creation and keep them unsullied, and in this way we can make a right use of creation, which comes to us as a gift, according to its intrinsic requirements and ultimate purpose. This makes sense even if outwardly we achieve nothing or seem powerless in the face of overwhelming hostile forces. So on the one hand, our actions engender hope for us and for others; but at the same time, it is the great hope based upon God's promises that gives us courage and directs our action in good times and bad.
Spe Salvi 35

Reflection – Happy Pentecost Sunday! It is good to reflect on this day on the whole notion of ‘gift’. In the medieval church, the primary title of the Holy Spirit was Donum Dei – the gift of God. The whole dynamic of this day, and this mystery is gift and reception, the Spirit coming down and our hearts opening to receive Him. "If only you knew the gift of God..." (Jn 4)

We of North America are deeply rooted in an economy and culture of production and accomplishment. The gift of the Spirit, the dynamism of God which we see in this feast, which is the true story of the world and of salvation, leads us to build our life on something very different.

Before we ‘do’, before we ‘accomplish’, before we produce—we are. We are constituted, made, blessed, given, conformed, shaped, empowered by the action of God. All nice passive verbs, and how important that proper passivity is for us.

The great project of modernity in all its manifestations was about man taking hold of the world, taking absolute charge of it, and making it exactly what he thought it should be. The Great March of humanity, as I read in a rather brilliant newspaper column this weekend (sorry I can't locate the link)—the triumphant procession towards the glorious kingdom of man where we finally stretch to our full height of power and majesty.

Well, the Great March led to the Gulag, to Auschwitz, the Killing Fields, and the abortion clinics of our society. It was no march at all, but a lemming-run off the cliffs of war, terror, and death.

Gift, reception, listening to the Spirit, letting God unfold His kingdom, opening up to cooperate in that Kingdom—this is the desperate and urgent need of our times. We are running out of money, running out of virtue, running out of patience. Young people are rioting in our cities; the world is writhing and twisting under the knife of want and austerity.

God has a way out for us; God has a plan. And He has a gift for us—the life of God, the power of infinite love and generosity, the ability of God to penetrate our hearts, wash them clean, set them on fire and strengthen them to live and die for love’s sake. That is the Kingdom of God; that is the Holy Spirit; that is what God wants to give you and me today.

Happy Feast Day.


  1. "we are only light bulbs and our job is to remain screwed in"
    Desmond Tutu

    Good luck with the tweets and twitters...can you attach them to your blog? I don't twitter. Honestly, I can't bear the thought of another way to communicate. I am already so hooked up... I will pray for all of it...

    1. Thanks, Catherine. Yeah, I'm pretty dubious about the whole Twitter thing - I'm just trying it out to see if there's any apostolic point to it - so far, the jury is out...
      I don't think I can link tweets to blog - if I can, it's beyond me at this point. Bless you.


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