Homily for June 19th, 2017: 2 Corinthians 6:1-10.
“We beg you not to receive the grace of God in vain,” we heard in our first reading. “Grace” is the biblical word for God’s love, which includes the help we need to follow him. Grace is not something we can earn. It is a free gift. To be useful, however, we must accept and use what God gives us, out of sheer generosity. Refusing to do so is what Paul calls “receiving the grace of God in vain.”
How do we do this? Most often, probably, through procrastination. ‘I’ll get to that tomorrow,’ we think. ‘Right now I’m more concerned with . . .’ my own affairs, plans, whatever. In Jesus’ parable of the rich man and poor Lazarus, who lies unnoticed at the rich man’s gate, the rich man, after his death, asks Abraham to send someone to his still living brothers, lest they too experience the torment the rich man is undergoing. Abraham’s response to this seemingly reasonable request sounds callous: “Let them read Moses and the prophets.” That was Jesus’ way of telling his hearers, ourselves included, that present circumstances are always enough for us to believe in God and serve him.
Most of us, most of the time, live and work in circumstances that are less than ideal. Confronted with our modest achievements, we plead that they are a consequence of our limited opportunities. When things change and we get into better circumstances, we shall be able to accomplish so much more. That is an illusion.
The golden opportunities that beckon on the other side of the horizon will never arrive if we are not using the opportunities, however limited, that are before us right now. It is here and now, in the present moment (the only time we ever have) that we are called to faith in God, and to generous service of God and others — and not somewhere else, tomorrow, when everything changes at the touch of some magic wand and our lives cease to be drab and become wonderful.
That is what Paul is telling us with his simple but powerful words: “Now is the acceptable time! Now is the day of salvation!”