At first sight, the words of Jesus that we have heard in the gospel are not very encouraging: “They will put you out of the synagogues: yea, the hour cometh, that whosoever killeth you, will think that he doth a service to God.”(Jn16,2) The History of the early Church would confirm the words of Jesus. The Jews, who had not known the Father and not recognized His Son expulsed the Apostles and their disciples from the synagogues. They killed those who professed that Jesus who was crucified was now risen from the dead, because they were blasphemers. Doing this, they thought that they did a service to God. Among them, one of the most zealous, was Saul of Tarsus. A day would come when he would truly glorify God, not with the blood of his victims, but with his own blood after having glorified Him with the ardor of his charity as the Apostle of the Gentiles for many years.
But who turned Saul into the great Saint Paul? It was certainly not himself and he would deny this fact. He rather said: “By the grace of God, I am what I am” (1 Co 15,9) You can hear a true disciple, who does not deny the work of God in him, but who knows how to recognize it and to glorify its Author. It is again Saint Paul who says that “the grace of God has appeared to all men.” (Tt 2, 11)
The grace has appeared and it has changed the world. First, it changed the Apostles, who still had understood almost nothing until the effusion of the Spirit they received on Pentecost day. Twelve men have really changed the world, or more exactly, God through twelve men. They were the rock on which Jesus Christ built His new Church. (Eph2,20) The miracle has endured until today. The same Church, teaching the same Faith, providing the same Sacraments and diffusing the same grace throughout the world is now renewing the face of the earth. “The grace has appeared to all men” (Tt2, 11) and God did not take it back.
Certainly, the powers of Hell try to hide the light of the world and to make tasteless the salt of the earth. It is true that the Church shines of merest radiance today than what she used to in days of old. But it is not because the clouds impede us of seeing the sun that the sun does not shine. Even in the midst of the torrent of impurity of the world, she is the “holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.”(Rev21,2) Even in the midst of the stream of relativism and liberalism, She is the Mistress of truth who teaches and enlightens the consciences.
The Church today is still a visible expression of the grace in the world. As the first Vatican Council reminds us, “there is a visible teaching authority which publicly proposes dogma that must be interiorly believed and openly professed. There is a visible priestly office which publicly supervises and takes care of the visible mysteries of God by which interior sanctification is conferred on men and due worship is paid to God. There is a visible governing body which orders the union of the members among themselves and which guides and directs the whole external and public life of the faithful in the Church.”
The Church in herself is a grace, but one needs a particular and individual grace in order to listen to her and to accept her as the means of salvation given by Jesus Christ. The grace has appeared to all men: to all men as humanity in general, but also to each single person. The truth is taught in an audible manner by the Church, but one needs to enter into oneself in order to hear it. That is the meaning of the sentence of Saint Augustine which we commented on last week: “Foris admonet, intus docet.” You can hear the truth with your ears, but if you don’t want to believe, then you don’t believe. And we need a prompting of divine grace so that our will can accept the teaching of the Church. We need the grace of God in order to believe. We need the grace of God in order to bear testimony of Jesus Christ, as the Apostles did in their time. The laws of divine grace are not different today than what they were 2000 years ago. Like the first disciples, we are weak and cowards, but like them we have been told by Jesus: “But when the Paraclete cometh, whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceedeth from the Father, he shall give testimony of me. "(Jn15,26)
Dear Brethren, we do not live in a more difficult time today than the Apostles 20 centuries ago. I would say that we have even more than they did. We have 20 centuries of Tradition of the Church and we can be proud of this heritage in which we can find the strength to continue the work of evangelization. For sure, many things are not perfect today and we can find many reasons to complain every day. But then, what would be the use of complaining? Because we don’t live in a catholic society? Because it is not easy to live as a disciple of Jesus Christ today? Well, it is for these reasons that Jesus promised to send the Paraclete. What else do you need? Nothing! Absolutely nothing! If we have God and His grace, it is sufficient as Saint Paul says. But now, we still have to bear fruit and it is our work, under the promptings of grace. What the first Christians accomplished, we can also do even though we have to be expulsed out of the synagogues “understand churches” or even though we have to be killed. And this cannot take away our joy, if we are really with God.
So may Our Lady help to accept the grace of God in our souls, so that we can truly and entirely respond to it and be good and faithful disciples of Our Lord Jesus Christ.