Editorial Note: The following reflection was delivered as part of Morning Prayer during the Center for Liturgy’s recent Symposium, Liturgy and Vocation. We are grateful for the author’s permission to post it here.
Brothers and sisters,
I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you,
which you received and in which you stand firm.
You are being saved by it at this very moment.
I handed on to you first of all what I myself received,
that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures;
that he was buried and, in accordance with the Scriptures,
rose on the third day.
1 Corinthians 15:1–2a, 3–4
We can all be grateful for and humbled by St. Paul’s introductory sentence in today’s reading: “Brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and in which you stand firm.” St. Paul is leading early Christians and disciples today through an exercise in religious remembering. He is stirring our memories so that we might come to enter more fully into who we are as Christians and why we are Christians.
St. Paul’s first sentence is also a deeply vocational one. It prompts us not only to remember, but also to probe deep within. It begs us to ask ourselves: Do I live that Gospel in which I stand firm? How do the vows that I have made manifest in my daily life? How is the journey of seeking after Christ unfolding in my life?
If love of God and life in God prompted St. Paul’s encouragement for us to remember the Gospel, then love of God and life in God are also certainly elements in answering the vocational questions we have just asked. I would like to highlight two elements of God’s love and life found in today’s Morning Prayer [for the feast of St. Barnabas].First, God’s love and life is creative. The creative love of God is overwhelmingly evident in the Canticle from Daniel [Dan 3:57–88, 56]. This magnificent Canticle praises the Lord for all creation. The Lord has created an infinitely unique variety of heavenly beings, plants, animals, stars, vegetation, climates and land formations, all culminating in humanity.Because of this creative life-giving energy, we are exhorted to “Praise and exalt him above all forever.” Creation is not only a manifestation of God’s love, but also fosters the love of God within us that is expressed through praise.
Then in [today’s proper] Antiphon for Psalm 63, we hear a Christic tone in the creative love of God: “Love one another as I have loved you.” As God has loved us through creation, through salvation history, and through the life, death and resurrection of Christ, we are to love one another. This is a creative and creating love. It brings life; it is relational; it is mysterious; it is expansive; it is joyful; it is faithful; it is perpetual; and we are invited to share in this creative love through our vocation to Christ and His Church.
Second, God’s love and life is sacrificial. God’s love is a love poured out, a love overflowing. We see this in creation and throughout salvation history, all culminating in Jesus Christ. As the [proper] Antiphon for the Canticle [from Daniel] repeats from John 15:13: “There is no greater love than to lay down your life for your friends.” It is perhaps this kind of love that we most closely associate with the gospel. We see Christ pour himself out in Scripture and come to know Christ poured out in our lives through the merciful love of others and the sacramental life of the Church.
Through the first sentence of today’s reading, St. Paul invites us into this reflective remembering and vocational questioning. Like a good guide, he leads us to the heart of our journey with the last sentence of today’s reading. He says, “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures; that he was buried and, in accordance with the Scriptures, rose on the third day.” Actively remembering this kerygma that we have received leads us to enter into the mystery of God. It leads us to reflect on God’s mercy, forgiveness, fidelity and calling in our lives and in the life of the Church. Most importantly, it leads us to the person of Christ who is alive within each of our hearts. It is Christ who calls us, Christ who leads us, and Christ in whom we stand firm. Let us pray that we might live THIS, the heart of our shared vocation more fully each day in our lives as disciples.