Now that the Christmas season is over the bills start coming in. No, this column isn’t to make you feel guilty about how much (or how) you spent. (If necessary, you can do that for yourself.) I want to take this experience lots of us are having and tie it to today’s feast, the Baptism of the Lord.
We celebrate the beginning of Jesus’ ministry today; and, by extension, we remember that by our own baptism Christ has commissioned us to carry his message in our own time. This is where the bill-paying comes in.
And it’s where I introduce a theological term you may never have heard of, but it’s important: Energeia. It’s the Greek word we get “energy” from, but its meaning in spiritual theology is different; I think it’s best translated as, “the activity of God in us.” Here are some examples of how it’s used in the Scriptures (in each case the English word in bold is a form of the Greek Energeia):
• Galatians 2:8: For He [Jesus] who worked through Peter for His apostolic ministry to the circumcised worked also through me for mine to the Gentiles.
• Ephesians 1:1: Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus.
• Ephesians 3:7: Of this gospel I [Paul] was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of His power.
• Colossians 1:29: For this I [Paul] toil, struggling with all His energy that He powerfully works within me.
• 1 Corinthians 12:6: There are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.
• Ephesians 4:16: from whom [Jesus] the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love
• Philippians 2:13: For it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.
Discipleship is the action of God in us – God’s power through grace, working in us for the salvation of all. The choices we make are, in a crude analogy, like aiming a fire-hose: we can use the power for good, or we can fritter it away. The opportunity to “aim” the Energeia of God is a gift given to us in Baptism. Learning how to aim it properly is a lifelong study. (Remember that “study” is one of the marks of a Dynamic Catholic, as Matthew Kelly describes.)
So paying the bills is an opportunity for self-study: How did I use the resources God has given to me at Christmas? Did my giving build up my family, my circle of friends? Did I show respect for limits? Did I care for the environment (“our common home,” as the Holy Father reminds us) in the way I shopped, decorated, and cleaned up? Did I care for the poor?
All of us have to keep learning; making mistakes is ok, because there’s rarely learning without mistakes. So as you add up the bills, keep asking: How wise was I? What might God be teaching me, at this moment? Are there choices I should make differently, beginning now? Until next week, peace.