The Logic of Charisms
For the past few Sundays, the Gospel passages have not mentioned any specific teachings of Jesus. Instead, they’ve been painting a picture for us of the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry.
Yet it can be hard to see how this applies to our lives. None of us teaches with the authority that Jesus taught, most of us cannot miraculously heal others or cast out unclean spirits. So what is there for us to learn here? How can these snapshots of the early days of Jesus’ public ministry apply to us?
In today’s Gospel, we hear the confusion – even annoyance – in Simon Peter and the first disciples’ voices when they say to Jesus: “Everyone is searching for you.” The evening before, “the whole city was gathered around the door.” We can only imagine by morning, word had spread, and even more people were on their way. Why did Jesus now want to go to the neighbouring towns? They were coming to him!
When we think we’ve found something good in life, we have a tendency to want to “set up shop” – to build, protect, develop this good thing we’ve found. How easy it would have been for Jesus to do that, to set up shop, to build a “ministry.” People would have come from all over, and his disciples could help manage things. But that’s not what he came to do.
Jesus did not come to become yet another unattainable good only a privileged few enjoy while everyone else has to line up. In Jesus, God comes to us with no pretenses – in humility and simplicity – to bring us his Good News and cast darkness out of our lives. If we receive this gift, we discover it has its own logic – it contains within it a call, a vocation – that Jesus demonstrates in today’s Gospel by not setting up shop, but going to the neighbouring towns that do not know him, and proclaiming the message there also.
This past Friday, February 2nd, the Church celebrated the World Day for Consecrated Life. In addition to the vows, promises, or commitments a consecrated person makes, there are also charisms that they share. Pope Francis likes to use the image of water when talking about charisms – graces of the Holy Spirit given to individuals and communities for the building up of the Church, the good of others, and the needs of the world. A charism – the Pope says – is not given by the Holy Spirit to be preserved like a bottle of distilled water – but to be opened and allowed to go out, to bring life, growth, renewal, and transformation. In today’s Gospel, Jesus says: “Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also, for that is what I came out to do.” This is the logic of charisms.