September 7, 2012 - Friday of the Twenty-second Week in Ordinary Time

1 Corinthians 4:1-5
Psalm 37:3-6, 27-28, 39-40
Luke 5:33-39

St. Paul tells the Corinthians that he and the other Apostles should be regarded not as leaders in their own right but as stewards of the mysteries of God. God has entrusted the Apostles with the task of carrying the Gospel to the ends of the earth. They did not own the Gospel; they held it in trust for the sake of the whole world. It was their sacred duty to bring this most precious gift to all those whom God had known ahead of time would believe and become Christians.

Jesus spent three years working publicly before dying on the Cross. This was not primarily to make disciples. Most of his followers abandoned him by the end. He preached to the crowds, but they misunderstood and returned home. He healed the sick and cast out demons, but not even this ministry was the true purpose of those years. Those years were, as he explains to the Pharisees today, to prepare the Apostles. He had new wine, and he had to prepare the Apostles to be new wineskins, capable of holding the wine. It was always the plan of Jesus to save the world through the Apostles.

We might ask why God chose to save the world through sinful humans. Christ appeared to St. Paul on the way to Damascus. Why did he not simply appear to everyone who would become Christian? Why does God trust the Church to be the steward of his mysteries? Over and over again the leaders of the Church have been found untrustworthy. Even the best have made mistakes. Nevertheless, God insists on saving humanity through the work of human beings.

This was the fulfillment of the Incarnation. Jesus became human in order to suffer and die for us, in order to be the first human to rise from the dead. If this message were distributed only in a spiritual way, it would not be incarnate; the Gospel would not really be part of this world. So God chose to deliver it to each person in the normal human way. The Bible is a book like every other book. Our parents and other people teach us the faith just like they teach us history and science and every other subject. In this way, the supernatural has become an integral part of the natural world, and our faith is not something external or foreign to us.