Easter 05, Year C

The Lord will not abandon his people (Ps. 94:14)

The first reading narrates that Paul and Barnabas appointed presbyters in each church for the considerable number of disciples they made and that the same presbyters were commended to the Lord with much prayer and fasting. The reading also recalls that the two, while at Antioch, had themselves been commended also to the grace of God for precisely the work that they had just accomplished.

That human beings, in the first place, are chosen and appointed to perform tasks that really transcend the merely human, this affirms for me the basic worth that human beings received from the Creator of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible. And the affirmation of humanity’s primal goodness is likewise a declaration that human beings can be trusted. In this regard, please allow me to quote this comment from St. Alberto Hurtado:

To trust workers, to trust the youth, to trust children, is a virtue
that is deeply formative. Those who have never been trusted by
anyone have not seen their life’s most beautiful star shine. They
will justifiably tell their parents and their teachers: “It would
have been different had someone put his faith in me.”

But that, in the second place, those entrusted with a divine mission are commended to the Lord, or to the grace of God, I see in this an acknowledgment that human beings are flesh—corruptible not just physically but also morally (Gen. 6:3, 5). Human beings, in other words, are not wholly trustworthy.

Sometimes we human beings begin with the Spirit and end with the flesh (Gal. 3:3). We, for example, see ourselves in need of grace at first—and for this reason we pray—but then end up believing we are justified by our works and proclaiming how much more righteous we are than others (Lk. 18:9-14). On occasions we mistake our self-interests for God’s own interests, and we act more or less like someone one who would kill thinking all along that in doing so he would be offering worship to God (cf. Jn. 16:2). There are times too when, not unlike those who sought to compel Gentile Christians to live as Jews, we are not able to distinguish between our personal hang-ups or anxieties and legitimate concerns for the whole Church (Gal. 2). And what to say about leaders who swear by the Holy Bible and then base their policies on lies? Indeed, in spite of our basic goodness, we human beings leave much to be desired and not rarely do we disappoint not a few people. Human beings can be trusted, yes, but God, his grace, must be trusted above all.

It is precisely because of the commendation to the Lord, to God’s grace, of human beings chosen for supernatural missions that I put my trust in these human beings. They may be foolish, weak, or tormented by some thorn in the flesh, and in them sin increases. But surely God’s wisdom, strength or power will be made perfect in their foolishness, weakness or torments, and grace will overflow all the more. In their very poor selves is revealed, I believe, that God’s dwelling is with the human race. The way Jesus has loved them—that is, in a self-sacrificing manner—enables them to love also and to contribute to the making new of all things, to the wiping away of every foolishness, weakness, torment, wailing, pain, death and corruption. I would like to think I trust God and the human beings he has chosen with the same kind of trust that St. Vincent de Paul expressed when he told the Daughters of Charity in a 1658 conference (cf. #509, third paragraph [1]):

The Church was begun in just the same way [i.e., in the way the
Company of the Daughters of Charity was started]. The apostles
were all poor people, they knew nothing, they walked barefoot,
they wore no linen. And yet look at what they realized with the
grace our Lord gave them. They converted the whole world.

There may well be a media frenzy, for example, over the long-awaited document from Pope Benedict XVI authorizing wider use of the pre-Vatican II Mass. There will surely be controversies regarding its value, just as it is debated whether Vatican II represents a break or a continuity with the Church prior to the mid-1960s. But be it as it may, be one with conservative or liberal leanings, one can rightly still pray: “I trust even when I say in my alarm, ‘No man can be trusted’ (Ps. 116:10-11).