Tenth Anniversary of the Association of Iowa Cistercians
[Scripture Readings: 1Cor. 12: 4-13; Lk. 10: 38-41]
For the past few years a theme that has stood out for me in the readings for Advent and the Christmas season has been the historical concreteness of the Incarnation. The Word of God did not become human in general. Jesus was born at a particular time in history, into a particular family, in a particular locality, under particular political and social conditions. He accepted a particular cultural and religious heritage with its promises and infidelities, its hopes and its fears. In short, Jesus accepted the possibilities and limitations that are the lot of every human being, including you and me.
The Body of Christ, of which you and I are members, continues the mission of Jesus under the same condition of possibilities and limitations. We are called to be disciples of Christ with our strengths and our weakness, our hopes and our fears. Our life situations offer us opportunities to respond to Christ’s call to follow him, and at the same time they place limitations on our ability to respond. When we think of the work that needs to be done to bring Christ to the world and of our limited opportunities, the task may seem to reduce anything we might do to insignificance. At these times I am reminded of the Confucian saying: It is better to light one small candle than to curse the darkness.
The light we are called to bring into the darkness is the light of Christ. Left to ourselves the task before us would indeed be too much, and our efforts would pale into insignificance. But we have not been left to ourselves. The Spirit of Christ dwelling in us gives an effectiveness to our efforts beyond what we can see. Our contributions to the work of Christ will become manifest only at the completion of history when the Body of Christ reaches the full stature of Christ. Until then our work may seem commonplace and not of much importance. Yet, Jesus himself compared spreading the good news of God’s kingdom to the commonplace activity of a woman mixing leaven into flour.
Each of us has received gifts from the Holy Spirit to use in building up the Body of Christ on earth. In going about our work how we integrate and balance Martha and Mary within us will vary with our individual temperaments and life situations, and how we co-operate with the Holy Spirit who guides and supports us. Nevertheless, we are all called to service, and our service will be effective only to the extent that it flows out of our prayer and understanding of the word of God. With faith and hope in Christ’s promise to remain with us, let us accept his call to continue his work each day in whatever situation that day may bring.