‘YOU yourselves have seen what I did with the Egyptians, how I carried you on eagle’s wings and brought you to myself. From this you know that if you hold fast to my covenant, you of all the nations shall be my very own. I will count you a kingdom of priests, a consecrated nation.” Exodus 19.4 The words spoken to Moses summarized both the history and the calling of God’s people. A loving God had set them free from slavery, had become the security for which they longed.
The God who had blessed them so richly, chose them to become the living sign of his own goodness. By their presence they would sanctify a sinful world. “You of all the nations shall be my very own. I will count you a kingdom of priests, a consecrated nation.” Exodus 19.6
We relive Israel’s history, both as individuals and as a Church. In baptism, the Father chose us as his own in Jesus Christ. We are holy, not because of our own virtue, but because we are this “consecrated nation”, this living sign of God’s presence in the world. Faith calls us to believe in what God has made us, to believe that our presence can sanctify a seemingly unchangeable world.
The sentiments expressed by Jesus at the beginning of the gospel could well apply to the society in which we live. “When Jesus saw the crowds he felt sorry for them, because they were harassed and dejected, like sheep without a shepherd.” Mt 9.37
We live in a world that wanders aimlessly from one imagined gratification to another. It is a world that builds its own promised land – only to know the dejection of disappointed hopes. It is frequently harassed by the many demands that eat away at our freedom. Confronted with such a world, the temptation is to shrug our shoulders, and resign ourselves to what we cannot imagine changing.
What we might see as unchangeable, Jesus saw as an opportunity. ‘The harvest is rich, but the labourers are few, so ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest.’ Mt 9.37 As the gospel unfolds, Jesus summoned the disciples, ‘giving them authority over unclean spirits with the power to cast them out and cure all kinds of sickness.’ Mt 10.1 In a certain sense, that same power is given to each one of us – we are all his disciples.
We live in a world touched by many unclean spirits, like greed, selfishness, materialism, pride, and so on. Jesus gave us the power to overcome the spirit of the world. We do this by the example of our lives. When we choose generosity, the greed of a selfish world is diminished. When we choose humility, arrogance begins to collapse.
Jesus also gave his disciples the power to cure all kinds of disease. Few of us are called to be doctors, but all of us are entrusted with a more universal healing. When we allow Christ’s love to work through us, we bring a healing that touches broken lives.
Because Christ lives within us, we can bring pardon to an injured world, we can bring hope to despair. This is the healing the world longs for, and it’s God’s gift to each one of us. This is how we can change what may seem unchangeable.
Peter Knott SJ