This week, Psalm 111 has us exclaim: “How great are the works of the Lord.”
The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that the Church Fathers used the term “economy” to refer to all the works by which God reveals Himself to the world and communicates His life to us (CCC 236). It also points out that this communication comes in both words and deeds (CCC 53).
That’s a great pattern for investigating the Old Testament: What are the words and deeds by which God communicated Himself to Israel?
It’s a great pattern for thinking about the life and ministry of Jesus, especially during this week when we celebrate the feast of St. Matthew on Sept. 21. The Gospel of Matthew clearly shows Jesus’ ministry in terms of words and deeds, each shedding light on the other.
It’s also a great pattern for thinking about the Mass. Every Mass involves a combination of words and deeds. In and through them, Jesus continues to be present to us.
The Church Fathers also said that the “economy” — in this sense of the words and deeds of God — reveals to us who God is. After all, as the catechism points out, that’s how it works with human beings: We get to know who somebody is, and they show themselves to us, through their words and deeds.
But all of that raises a question: Do our words and deeds make Jesus known to others, or not?
The feast of St. Matthew gives us something to think about. Matthew was a tax collector. St. Bede, in talking about Matthew’s conversion, points out that when he left his post to follow Jesus, many other tax collectors and sinners came to dine with Jesus: “The conversion of one tax collector gave many men, those from his own profession and other sinners, an example of repentance and pardon … . No sooner was he converted than Matthew drew after him a whole crowd of sinners along the same road to salvation.”
We all know people whose words and deeds, in big ways and small ways, give witness to their conversion and their following of Christ. St. Augustine is an ancient example; Abby Johnson, who worked for the nation’s largest abortion provider and now is a pro-life advocate, is a recent example. In every case, their conversion costs them something. But as they give witness to what Jesus has done for them, their words and deeds invite and challenge others to let Jesus into their lives.
How about us?
The words and deeds of God in the Old Testament testify to His love for Israel. Jesus’ words and deeds testify to His love for us. St. Matthew’s words and deeds testify to God’s love for him, and Jesus’ work in his life. Do our words and deeds tell people anything about Jesus’ work in our life, or do we try to keep that good news hidden?
Let’s be more ready to show the world “how great are the works of the Lord” in what we say and in what we do.