Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Week 22 Wednesday - 2 September 2015

Readings: Colossians 1:1-8; Psalm 52; Luke 4:38-44

There are a number of places in the letters of Paul where the basic structure of life in Christ is expressed in terms of faith, hope and love. We find it most famously at the end of the great 'hymn to love' in 1 Corinthians 13 and again in the opening verses of the First Letter to the Thessalonians. Here it is again, in the opening verses of the Letter to the Colossians, as Paul and Timothy give thanks for the members of that church. They have heard already about the faith of the Colossians and the love they have for all the holy ones because of the hope which is kept safe for them in heaven.


These gifts of the Spirit, what later tradition came to call the 'theological virtues', are the fundamental dispositions, attitudes or ways of behaving, that characterise the Christian person. We see them in the life of Jesus himself and quite neatly too in the three sections of today's gospel reading.

Prayer is the characteristic act of the virtue of hope, this is how hope typically expresses itself. The apostles interceded with Jesus about Simon's mother in law, he heard them, and healed her. They prayed to him, in other words, asking his help, and he heard them. The focus of Christian hope is not so much on the favour or help requested as it is on the Person from whom the favour or help is requested. And so it is here. Many times throughout the gospels Jesus encourages his disciples to pray simply, asking for what they need and want. They are to become like children in this, trusting the Father to respond to their requests. Hope is also the virtue of eternal youth since it keeps us looking forward to a future that is to come. Hope opens us to that future, keeps us ready for newness and surprise, enables us to pray.

The pastoral charity of Christ is seen in his service of the people in the towns and villages of Galilee, Judea and beyond. They come to him in droves, the sick, the disturbed and the distressed. He is available for them, always willing to respond to their call even when it takes him away from prayer or from a time of rest with the disciples. He makes no distinction, as love makes no distinction, seeing only the needy children of the Father, his own needy brothers and sisters.

His principal work is to preach the good news of the kingdom of God. In doing this he calls them to faith, to trust in Him and in the Father who has sent Him to preach to them. He is the sower going out to sow his seed, to plant among them the word of truth, which takes root, grows and bears fruit not only among those who were his contemporaries but among all who have come to the obedience of faith through the preaching of the Church.

So faith, hope and love abide, these three. They unite us with Christ in his work and in his relationship with the Father, gifts or virtues that unite us directly with God (hence 'theological' virtues), that express the life of the Spirit who has been poured into our hearts. May God strengthen these gifts in everybody who reads these words today.

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