“To be is to do” or “To do is to be”?

Wes Gaab

(For the audio version of this blog, please visit: http://brothersinchristcmf.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/08/Mass-Blog-for-the-23rd-Sunday-in-Ordinary-time-2023.mp3)

That headline represents a debate between students of various philosophers. Who’s right? Depends. The best teachers will tell you that any of us is stronger living as a verb than a noun. A verb represents action (to do), and as such, represents a mission—no matter how humble. Take the verb “to usher,” for example. ” It means both to guide someone somewhere and to mark the start of something new. Being an usher simply qualifies you to wear that noun as a badge. The act of ushering requires action.

As a church usher, I learned from the best of them that what we humans do is an outward sign of how we got here. Wes Gaab was a teacher, a historian, a Purple Heart Hero of World War II, AND an occasional usher at our church. He was also an usher by how he lived. When I became an usher and Wes retired as such, I’d occasionally rely on him to fill gaps on our team when fellow ushers didn’t show up. The historian in him taught me that the greatest contributor to success for any endeavor is showing up. The Holy Spirit takes action from there.

Showing up to worship and to learn at church strengthens our faith and makes us both prophets and ushers. By showing others a new path, prophets—like ushers—become servants who are better known for their service than their title.  This Sunday’s first reading (Ez 33:7-9) documents the day the holder of the proper noun Ezekiel was redefined by God’s call to action:

You, son of man, I have appointed watchman for the house of Israel; when you hear me say anything, you shall warn them for me.

Paul was also redefined as that kind of heroic action figure who puts muscle where his mouth is. That spiritual power gave him the strength to shed his old self as Saul the persecutor. In the process, he learned that love is both a calling and the caller. Indeed, Love is the only word that is equally strong as a noun (synonymous with God) and a verb (God’s call to action). Love is such a powerful word that it summarizes the meaning of all the words in each of the ten commandments Moses ushered down Mount Sinai.

“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no evil to the neighbor; hence, love is the fulfillment of the law, Paulteaches (Rom 13:8-10).

Love is both God’s name and the action two or more of us take when we pray for each other. Its power makes God act through us, as Jesus teaches through Matthew’s gospel this Sunday (Mt 18:15-20).

“If two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted to them by my heavenly Father. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”

So, our gathering together ushers God’s spirit in amongst us. That same spirit recently ushered Wes to the reward he had coming to him. That reward awaits all who show people where love is for a living.

–Tom Andel

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