A Vincentian View: The Work of God

by | Apr 26, 2023 | Formation, Reflections | 1 comment

One of the verses from a Gospel of the past week captured my thinking and prompted my reflection: “This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent.”  Sometimes, we may ask ourselves “what is it that God wants me to do; what do I need to do in order to accomplish God’s will in my life?”  That kind of questioning can give rise to an analysis of my jobs and my relations.  All that is good.

This line, however, takes a step back from projects to be accomplished or skills to be developed.  It suggests that the primary responsibility for a Christian woman or man is to grow in the personal knowledge and following of Jesus.  And it is work, the work of God.  As we engage in work, we become better at our task and more knowledgeable in our accomplishments.  Can we think of our belief in Jesus as “work?”  I have come to think so, when we speak about our time and effort and experience.

To grow in our belief in Jesus requires time.  It is not a “one and done” type of commitment.  We draw closer to the Lord when we make him an integral part of our day and our life.  We set aside time for prayer; we enter faithfully into the sacramental life; we commit ourselves to a gentle ongoing education in the words and ways of Jesus.  This last effort takes place as we listen to the Scriptures and allow the example and encouragement of Jesus to guide us.  We consciously surrender a part of our life to growing closer to him.

Yes, effort is involved in our belief in Jesus.  He did not come among us simply to tell us how to live faithfully, he came to show us.  He called his disciples to follow in his way by following his incarnated presence.  Their trust in him was reflected in their “taking up their cross and following him” (Lk 9:23) their “believing in his word” (Jn 8:31), their “having love for one another” (Jn 13:35), their “bearing fruit” (Jn 15:16).  To believe in Jesus involves more than a commitment to his words, it involves a commitment to his life.  We have all heard that popular—though perhaps dated—expression to determine the direction of a Christian life: “What would Jesus do?” (often simply abbreviated WWJD).  It offers one way to consider how we make our moral decisions and consider our commitments that lead to action.  Doing “the work of God” involves us in an expression of our belief in Jesus in the practical order.  There is no theoretical belief in Jesus.  He was real among us and needs a real following.  That requires effort.

Experience offers a third way of reflection on how we believe in Jesus.  It invites a consideration of how we advance in our convictions.  We presume that as we carry out a particular work, we get better at it.  Experience teaches us how to do this and when to do that.  We hope and pray that our continued learning from the Word of God, our worthy reception of the sacraments, and our ongoing acceptance of the teachings of the Church enable us to become those better women and men who follow Jesus more closely.  Is it proper to say that as we grow older, we become better Christians?  That reflection finds room for serious consideration in my life.  Yet, I accept it as an expression of committing to do the work of God.

This is the work of God, that you believe in the one he sent.”  The Scripture verse invites a serious meditation on our faith as centered in the person of Jesus.  Not doctrine but personal commitment defines how we grow in this work of God.  Dodin captures something of the wonderful spirit of Vincent in this regard:

An invisible person is the magnetic pole which orients Vincent’s profound thoughts, his preferences, his way of speaking.  His talks are full of aphorisms and quotations, but he never uses them as absolute principles or constraints on his thought.  They are brush strokes and embellishments to invoke a Life.  Even the evangelical maxims are nothing other than condensations of the life of Christ.  They have no intrinsic power of their own, they are only expressions of the power of Jesus, who expresses himself through them and in them.  ‘Our Lord—not evangelical quotations—is the rule of the Mission.’ (XII, 130)” (Dodin, “Vincent de Paul and Charity” p. 55)

1 Comment

  1. Tom M

    “Time, Effort, and Experience” A very helpful sequence