Msgr. Joseph A. Pellegrino
Sixteenth Sunday: Life in the Presence of Christ
In this Sunday’s second reading from Paul’s Letter to the Colossians, Paul speaks about a mystery, “a mystery that has been hidden for ages is now manifested to God’s Holy Ones. The mystery is this: Christ is in you.”
Usually when we use the word mystery, we think of a story that has an ending we try to solve before we get to the last page of the book or last five minutes of the movie. When the Church uses the term mystery, it goes much deeper. For the Church a mystery is a truth that is incomprehensible to the reason and knowable only through divine revelation. The Early Church referred to the sacraments as the mysteries. When adults are about to come into the faith they are anointed with the Oil of Catechumens so they may have the strength and the grace to be open to Mystery. The main events of the action of Jesus Christ in our world is called the Mystery of Faith. At the most solemn time in the Mass, after the Bread and Wine become the Body and Blood of Christ, we are called upon to proclaim the Mystery of Faith, and we respond something similar to: “Christ has died, Christ is risen, Christ will come again.”
Paul, therefore reminds the Colossians and us that we have received Mystery, the Mystery that Christ is in us.
Sadly, when it comes to this Mystery many people, and many times we ourselves, are clueless.
We go about our day, so busy that we overlook the purpose for our actions. We overlook the reason for our being. We forget about the presence of Christ. Like Martha in the Gospel we are concerned with doing instead of being. Martha was busy doing this and that in her valiant efforts to prepare for Jesus. Mary, her sister, was concerned with being, with being with Jesus.
A number of years ago, someone came up with a great idea as a guide for making decisions. The idea was WWJD, What Would Jesus Do? People still wear wrist bands with WWJD to remind them to choose the course of action that Jesus would choose. I think that is wonderful. But I want to propose an even better guide. Instead of focusing on Jesus out there somewhere, focus in on the presence of the Lord right here, right now, in your lives, in that of your family and others, in the Church, in the world. WWJD is wonderful, but even better is WIJSWM, What Is Jesus Saying Within Me. This is the mystery that St. Paul is speaking about. Jesus Christ is here. When we are attuned to the presence of the Lord, we will force ourselves to consider if a particular action or inaction will strengthen or weaken the Divine Presence.
For example, sometimes people will say, “Well, the Church says this or that, regarding some situation or other, but I disagree.” Well, it is not a matter of what the Church says; it is a matter of the presence of Christ. It is not merely a matter that the Church says it is wrong to get drunk; it is a matter of considering what this action is doing to the presence of Jesus in our lives. A wise young priest once said to me, “A good way to judge whether an action is moral or not is to ask yourself whether or not you can pray better after the action.” Interesting. And true. If after a course of action, we find prayer difficult, then we have probably have driven the Lord out of our lives, or at least we have diminished His presence.
We need to pray. We harbor, we treasure the presence of Christ within each of us, within our homes and in our community. We need to make time every day to recognize this presence within us. We need to stop and hear the Lord in the silence. We cannot allow the many concerns of our lives to hide the only thing that matters, the presence of Jesus, His presence within us, His presence in those we love, and His presence in those who reach out to us. We cannot allow anything to dull this presence, His Presence.
When we make the time to be in His presence, when we join Mary of Bethany in just enjoying the Lord in our lives, we will find ourselves walking a road less traveled, a road of serenity in the middle of hectic activity. When we choose to nurture the presence of the Lord within us, we, like Mary, will be choosing the better part.