Siena College began its spring semester this week and after going through the syllabus for my theology course with my students, we hit the ground running. Every semester begins with questions about God, questions like “does God exist” and “is God knowable”. And when we do, I eventually present three now-classic demonstrations for God’s existence (I’ve shared these with you before). God’s existence can be demonstrated by arguments from Desire, from Contingency, and from the Objective Intelligibility of the World. It’s hard stuff…and it usually takes several discussions and examples for students’ minds to begin to grasp what we’re saying and how we’re thinking. Throughout our first three hours together, I repeatedly remind them of these demonstrations with arguments that are shorter, varied, some funny, but they’re always consistent: I believe this is the best way for them to learn these difficult yet very significant points. As the course will unfold, we will regularly make reference to these arguments because a single, consistent message demonstrates credibility, unity of heart, integrity of mind, and singularity of purpose.
- If a person or group says a thing only once, it can be easily missed by any hearers.
- If I tell one person one thing, and then contradict that when speaking with another, I lose all credibility and integrity, don’t I?
- If, as a group, members who are supposed to be aligned with an ideal are consistently arguing, then their unity of heart and singularity of purpose come into question, don’t they? If none can agree upon the ideal, then their group is surely threatened.
And so, in today’s Gospel, as Jesus hears of John the Baptist’s imprisonment and his almost-sure and impending death, Jesus begins His public ministry as He calls all to repent…for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. And so I think it is important that we recall a simple word from our gospel to remind us of an important aspect of our faith: the word, “all”. Jesus called all to hear His encouragement of repentance. He didn’t say this merely to the four disciples that He had chosen in this gospel; He won’t go and whisper it to the chosen Israelite peoples living in Jerusalem; He won’t segregate His hearers and followers…. This “ALL” is really for all. Notice where Jesus has placed Himself: in the midst of Galilee with all of its many and varied peoples. He won’t say to one faction, “repent” and to another, “get out of my sight”; He won’t cure certain ones, leaving others to their sin and rot; He won’t gather men into His kingdom, leaving women and children to wallow in injustice. Instead, Jesus goes throughout ALL of Galilee—the good Jews and bad, to pagans and non-believers alike—calling all to follow Him, to walk in His ways, and to inherit the kingdom of heaven. Moreover, when the sick and disabled of every single kind are brought to Him in droves, He cures them all and sets every one free.
No wonder that in our second reading, St. Paul urges the people of Corinth to be united in heart and mind, with a singular purpose and mission: they are to be disciples of Christ Jesus and bear His kingdom in the world.
This unity of heart, this singularity of purpose is also at the heart of who we are, here in this place, today at this time. No longer can we be a people who are limited and divided into factions: “I am a conservative Christian”, “I am a pro-life Christian”, “I am an anti-gun, liberal Christian”, and so on. No, instead, we must be Catholic Christians, united under the head of the Son of God, Christ Jesus, who calls us out of darkness (as we hear in our first reading) and brings us into His own wondrous light. We must be His people, who walk in authentic love for all others, who forgive transgressors just as we need to be forgiven, who serve others as we wish to be served in our need. This is our banner, is it not? The Creed we profess propels us deeper and deeper into the love of God which is then our pattern, our call, our mission and the purpose of all of our ministry.
I reflect on these things with you again today—very early in this Ordinary Time—because remembering this and recalling it regularly impresses upon all of us that our single, consistent message demonstrates credibility, unity of heart, integrity of mind, and singularity of purpose…and that authentic love is our source, is our way, and is our goal, now and always.
May the God of Love—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—keep us firm in our purpose, humble in our actions, and loving in all our relations with peoples always and everywhere.
A singular, purposeful ray of light shines through the smoke into the edicule – the structure that has been built over Jesus’ tomb in the Holy Land of Jerusalem.