King Charles III is crowned today in Westminster Abbey in London. Years before this historic, long-awaited day, Charles, as Prince of Wales, was doing Great Things, including food distributions and energy bill relief for the neediest in Great Britain. He has used his wealth to promote protections for the environment, and advocated for preservation of cultural and architectural heritages. Farmers in Sub-Sahara Africa have benefited from his efforts to help them make necessary adaptations for survival as the climate and economies swiftly change.
Indeed, despite his human inadequacies, the King is doing Great Works.
In today’s Gospel Jesus talks about his oneness with the Father. No words can adequately describe the oneness he experienced with his “Abba,” his Daddy, but we know the oneness bore much fruit. Indeed, he did Great Works.
In today’s section of the fourteenth chapter of John’s Gospel, Jesus makes a startling prediction: “whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these…” We, his brothers and sisters in faith, will do Great Things? Greater things than Jesus did? Really?
Is this a divine guarantee that we, in our brief spans on earth, will leave legacies of buildings, projects completed, millions lifted from poverty, injustices made right? Will we be honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom or the Nobel Peace Prize for our Great Works?
So, what did Jesus mean when he assured us we will do greater works than he, the miracle worker who changed the water into wine, raised Lazarus, gave the blind man sight, and cured the royal official’s son at Capernaum did?
His dazzling Great Works reflected his Father working in him to draw all of us to God, to abide in God.
The dazzling Great Works we do because we believe in Jesus are probably a lot subtler, more nuanced. Yet, the impact that our lives, lived in union with God, are having on others is probably more profound than we will ever know in this lifetime.
I think of a young mother who works for poverty wages at a dollar store in a section of town riddled with drugs, violence, prostitution, alcoholism and theft. She is committed to caring, as a single parent, to feeding, clothing and loving her five children in home unfit to be a chicken coup. Every day she is faithful in getting her children to school, paying bills and reporting to work. The influence she has on her family, her customers and on me, she will never fully know.
But I guarantee her influence is a Great Work. I am inspired by her faithfulness to God, which she often mentions to me, and to her commitments as a mother. When I experience a setback, a disappointment, a loss, I think of her and the profound grace God gives her each day to do the little things that she is called to do. This lifts me.
Believing in Jesus leads us to want to abide in him, to let him abide in us. This union, prayerfully experienced in moments of silence each day, opens our deepest selves to make room for the Spirit to fill us, to set us on fire, to act in amazing loving ways. These ways may not lead us to do Great Works as King Charles does. More likely we will be led to act quietly, behind the scenes, without fanfare, to be faithful to our daily responsibilities, done in love. Caring for a disabled or ill family member or neighbor, treating people with justice, compassion and love, being faithful parent, spouse, employee while opening our hearts, our homes, our neighborhoods, our country to our brothers and sisters who are hungry, lost, afraid, alone . . .these are all Great Works.
In your quiet moments of prayer today, ask God to do Great Works in you. And don’t be surprised if the answer to your prayer is: “just keep doing the little works you are doing, faithful one.”
Jim Wayne is a board member of the Passionist Solidarity Network (PSN), and author of The Unfinished Man. He lives in Louisville, Kentucky.