The Only Gospel Some May See
by Monsignor Thomas Wells
Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Bethesda MD
"Abandonment to Divine Providence," by Jean-Pierre de Caussade, a seventeenth century Jesuit, is a gem of spiritual writing. Fr. De Caussade had no idea he was writing a book, and we would know nothing of him or his spiritual insights except that a convent of Visitation Sisters in Nancy, France, kept his letters and notes of retreats he gave to them when he was their chaplain. At any rate, de Caussade, in one of his letters, tells the sisters, "The Holy Spirit writes no more Gospels except in our hearts." The lives of the saints give us an idea of what the author means: St. Theresa, the Little Flower, shows us the purity and simplicity of the Gospel; St. Ignatius of Loyola hints at its dynamism; St. Francis at its power to triumph with nothing of material power. But what of my heart?
Jesus Christ came into the same world in which we live. Even apart from the text of the Bible, one does not have to be an astute reader of history to see that the powerful held all the cards. Family life, even among the Jews (not to mention the pagans of Rome and elsewhere!) was in disarray; political corruption was a given, as we see from the esteem in which tax collectors were held; and the entertainments in the Roman Coliseum tell us exactly in what value was held human life. Jesus, in that world and in His humanity, spoke the Good News. And He spoke the Good News as a man because, among other reasons, He wanted us to recognize what we are capable of being and doing as men and women.
We believers have got to understand that, for many, we are all the Gospel there is. Do we find it hard to see God and therefore shrink from acting on faith? How dark do you think it was in the Garden the night before He died? Do we fear the scorn of the powerful in the professions? The Pharisees hated Jesus because He dared question their place as interpreters of what really matters. Do we look around and see, among our fellow believers, lack of talent, creativity and zeal? Check out the talent pool of the Apostles. Folks, the Gospel, as we allow the Spirit to write it on our hearts, is all the Good News our world is going to hear.
Catholics, all believers, are somewhat shell-shocked by the state of the world as we have come to know it. However, what we "on the streets" experience is only the fruit of several centuries of terrible philosophical thought. However, through Vatican II and the pontificate of John Paul II, the Church - in its intellectual response - has gotten to its feet again. We, as Catholics, cannot give in to either complacency (I'm OK, let everyone else take care of themselves) or despair at the corruption around us. When the Holy Father says, over and over again, "Be not afraid!" he is talking to us. May the Gospel be written large on our hearts and may all of our words and deeds announce what is in our hearts.
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