Being instruments of God


God desires to reveal His glory and goodness in our world, but he works through human instruments.

The first reading and the psalm today describe the transformation that God wants to work in His creation. He promises to dwell among us, bringing justice and peace, kindness and truth. But God won’t do it all himself. Jesus sent out his apostles and disciples to evangelize, and we, their spiritual heirs, have to make God present in our world today.

We have the example of many great saints who have done this very well. Just think of Mother Theresa of Calcutta, or Pope St Pius X, whose memorial we celebrate today. Through their holy lives and their work for the good of the Church and of humanity, they made great strides for justice, peace, kindness and truth, and have lead many people to Christ. There are also many saints who were lay people, like St Thomas Moore, who refused to compromise his faith when Henry VIII started the Anglican church, or St Gianna Beretta Molla, who gave heroic witness to love for life, sacrificing her life for the child in her womb.

Unfortunately, we are not all saints. As today’s Gospel reading shows, one of the biggest obstacles to God’s work through us is hypocrisy. The Pharisees were very observant of all sorts of religious laws and did many public works of charity and piety, but out of vanity; they wanted to bring honor and praise to themselves, not to God. They only kept the external observances in order to be seen, without living the spirit of the law. They demanded a detailed and complex code of behavior from others while they themselves just kept up appearances.

Like the Pharisees, we can do many apparently good and meritorious works, while actually being displeasing to God if we are doing them in order to satisfy our own vanity or public image. It can be hard to have perfect purity of intention because we often have several motivations mixed together, and we are not even aware of them until we stop to analyze them.

But there are some simple things that help us to be more like the saints who have been God’s instruments. For a start, we should try to do do our good works discreetly, without fanfare. If people see us, that’s OK, but we should act the same if they don’t, and even prefer that they don’t. Also, before we demand that others live up to an ideal, we need to be sure that we are striving to do so ourselves, and seek to help others before we expect to be helped. These are part of what it means to humble ourselves and be servants, as Jesus teaches in the Gospel today.

Let us then ask God to help us to make His glory, goodness, kindness and truth dwell in the land, like the great saints who have gone before us.

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About Matthew Green

I am a translator, origami artist/teacher, and photographer, a blogger, former philosophy professor, and I love to sing. You can see my photos on Flickr and buy prints of some of them on Fine Art America. You can find me on Instagram, Twitter (@mehjg), and in various and sundry other social media sites on the web.
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