–– Sito di FORMAZIONE PERMANENTE MISSIONARIA –– Uno sguardo missionario sulla Vita, il Mondo e la Chiesa A missionary look on the life of the world and the church –– VIDA y MISIÓN – VIE et MISSION – VIDA e MISSÃO ––
It is easy to mistake piety for the genuine response that God wants of us, that is, to enter into a relationship of intimacy with Him and then try to help others have that same experience.
We see this in Scripture. In Luke’s Gospel, after witnessing a miraculous catch of fish, Peter responds by falling at Jesus’ knees and saying: “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!”
At first glance that would seem the appropriate response, a wonderfully-pious one, an acknowledgement of his littleness and unworthiness in the face of God’s abundance and goodness. But, as author John Shea points out in his commentary on this text, Jesus names Peter’s response differently and invites him to something else.
Peter’s response manifests a sincere piety, but it is, in Shea’s words, “fearfully wrong”: “The awareness of God makes him [Peter] tremble and crushes him down. If he clings to the knees of Jesus, he must be on his own knees. Peter does not embrace the fullness; he wants to go away. This is hardly the response Jesus wants. So, he instructs Peter not to be afraid. Instead, he is to use what he experienced to bring others to the same experience. As Jesus has caught him, he is to catch others.” Jesus is inviting Peter to move out of fear and into deeper waters of intimacy and God’s abundance.
A number of the great Christian mystics have taught that, as we grow more deeply in our relationship with God, we gradually become more bold with God, that is, fear gives way more and more to intimacy, legalism gives way more and more to resourcefulness, judgment gives way more and more to empathy, and the kind of piety that would have us clinging to the knees of Jesus paralyzed by our own sinfulness gives way more and more to a joyous energy for mission.
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