Covid-19 affects everyone. We may or may not catch the virus, or have a loved one who does. But we are all affected. We find ourselves isolated and having to distance ourselves from others. Barriers have been erected between communities and regions. Borders are closed between countries. The virus has divided our world. Until we have more effective treatments and we are able to be protected with vaccines this will be our world. Does God really care? Does God enter our human story?
The readings of this Sunday help us to see that God speaks to us in human terms. In our scriptures, both the Old and New Testament we hear of God using human instruments to enter our story. In the 1st reading, the prophet Isaiah, speaks of the Persian King, Cyrus. As Isaiah describes it, a pagan king becomes the instrument by which God saves the People of Israel from exile and returns them to their land. Through Cyrus, God intervenes in the history of God’s People. (Is.45:1, 4-6)
In Matthew’s Gospel, we hear one of the stories of Jesus’ discussing with the Pharisees. (Matt.22:15-21) They try to trap him into denying his Judaism or into speaking against Roman authority. Jesus response to them is to do neither. The story draws us into a recognition that faith and our relationship with God is lived out in the midst of the secular world. Jesus points out to the Pharisees that they are to give to God what belongs to God and to the Emperor what belongs to him.
We live in a complex world of the secular and the spiritual. Neither denies or excludes the other. The story of Christian faith is founded on what we refer to as the Incarnation. It is one of the foundations of our faith that God enters our human condition in the person of Jesus Christ, God and human. This basic belief is the fullest expression that God speaks to us in human terms. This is a proclamation that all humanity, all human life, all human history is touched by the presence of God. God truly does speak to us in human terms, in every time and place. God really does stand with us.
Over the centuries, our Catholic faith and tradition has often expressed this incarnational vision of God-with-us. We are a faith that sees God speaking and acting in the context of our human story, i.e. in the times in which we live. Our Church’s 2000year history shows many occasions when we failed to be God’s voice in a way that could be heard by people of particular cultures and times. But it is also replete with a host of times when it reached out to the context, time and cultures in which it lived. As Church and as the presence of God’s People in our own time, this is the gift we can bring to our world.
The Second Vatican Council expressed this vision repeatedly. It spoke explicitly of this vision in the last of its great documents, The Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et spes). This document takes its title from its beginning words: “The joy and the hope, the grief and the anguish of the people of our time… are the joy and the hope, the grief and the anguish of the followers of Christ as well.”(GS 1) With these words, Vatican II expressed its solidarity with the world and context of its time. It understood that our God speaks and acts in the present world in which we live. In every era, the life and faith of our Church is intended to hear and speak to the culture and people of our time.
How do we as Church listen to our time and culture?How do we reach out with the Good News?