How can the Church know what to do if the people of God forget who they are? Today, Father Steve Grunow offers his homily inspired by the scripture for today’s Mass from the Old Testament Book of Deuteronomy.
There is an interesting correlation that occurs throughout the scriptures between knowing and doing. The Bible is impatient with thoughtless activism or abstract idealism. Instead, what is proposed is that once one knows who they are, then they know what it is precisely that they are supposed to do.
Therefore throughout the scriptures there are repeated reminders to Israel concerning who they are—you are the Lord’s people. The Lord has chosen you. The Lord has set you apart. You are the Lord’s beloved. Once you were no people and now you are God’s people…
These reminders about who Israel is are most often accompanied by the invitation to Israel to do something about the fact, the truth, of their identity. Knowing who they are means they also know what they are to do.
Today’s first scripture from the Old Testament Book of Deuteronomy demonstrates this correlation very well. Moses tells the people who they are, and indicates that relationship of that identity to the Law that God gives to his people—and then he makes it clear, knowing who you are you will know what to do.
But more than this, as others see Israel in action, as others see what Israel is doing, they will know who Israel is. The faith of Israel is a public faith that is meant to be displayed to the world so that the world might know about Israel’s unique identity and mission.
What is true for Israel is also true for the Church.
The Church is blocked in its ability to function, that is, to do its mission, when the baptized forget or simply do not know who precisely they are. If the integral link between knowing and doing is severed, then the mission falls apart. This is the reason why catechesis and liturgy and prayer are inextricably tied to the Church’s works of mercy.
Catechesis, liturgy and prayer tell the Church who she is. They are like the voice of Moses speaking to Israel saying, “Listen and do not forget. Let none of what the Lord has told you slip from your memory. If you don’t know who you are, you will not know what to do.”
A Church that doesn’t know its identity will not know what to do, or worse, will act contrary to its identity. The consequences for the world will be devastating should that be the case.
The Church, like Israel, is meant to be a new way, a means by which the world would know the one, true God to be love, and in knowing this, a civilization of love would emerge from this conviction of faith. A way of life would emerge in the world that looked like the God who is love, and through that way of life people would know who God really and truly is.
That can only happen if knowing is related to doing.
It is only when the Church knows who she is, that she knows precisely what it is that the Lord wants her to do.
Father Steve Grunow is the Assistant Director of Word on Fire Catholic Ministries.