Summary: The Church's mission--and ours--is to preach the Kingdom of God and to heal.
Monday After Trinity
You Will Be My Witnesses
The Church is always celebrating the presence of the Lord Jesus in Her midst. Zephaniah’s words to the wounded people of Israel must have seemed strange when he first prophesied the Lord’s presence, but they were almost identical to those used by the angel to Mary in her humble place at Nazareth–kaire, kecharitomene–“Hail, highly favored one, the Lord is in your midst.” I like to think of this joy being the joy of someone right after being betrothed for marriage. “He really loves me!” Or “she really wants me for life!”
St. Paul carries that same joy into his letter to the Romans–“Never flag in zeal, be aglow with the Spirit, serve the Lord.” Who would not be attracted to a community that always rejoices in hope, is patient in distress, is constant in prayer and always hospitable? As our former Archbishop told us, our duty to bear witness to God is not a burden, but a “duty of delight, a duty we carry out with joy and thanksgiving. We want the world, beginning with those nearest to us, to share in what we have been given–the free gift of God’s grace and the joy that comes with knowing the truth that sets us free.”
Can’t we see that embodied in our Blessed Mother here? She hears the Good News of the presence of the Son of God in her womb, and immediately responds in mission to her needy cousin, Elizabeth. Without hearing anything but a greeting, both Elizabeth and John respond in joy to her presence and especially the presence of the Messiah, Jesus, no more than a centimeter long inside her.
Jesus continued this reality in His public life and ministry. “Christ came into the world to preach the Good News.” He told us: that is why I came. The Church has the same mission–to preach the Kingdom of God and to heal.” (6) The first Christians, even under “the threat of persecution and death, preached and taught in homes and in the marketplace. . .in great cities and in rural areas.” No one escaped their presence, their proclamation. Read the Acts of the Apostles–“rich and poor. . .sick and handicapped. . .young and old. . .single and married. . .families. . .foreigners and slaves. . .philosophers and intellectuals and . . .the uneducated. . .kings, governors and religious leaders. . .workers, artisans and people of commerce.” (7)
What was enduring about their mission is that it “did more than create individual converts to Christ. . .the proclamation of Christ aimed to bring men and women into communion with Christ in his Church through the power of the sacraments. When they heard the Apostles’ preaching, people were moved to ask: ‘what shall we do?’ the Apostles replied directly: ‘Repent, and be baptized!’ Always and everywhere the apostolic preaching led to baptism and incorporation into local churches, each with its own bishop and priests, each united to the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.” It’s not just a matter of turning one’s life over to Jesus. It is critical that the response to Christ be in the prime sacrament He established, the Catholic Church. We preach Christ, but He is inseparable from the Bride, the Church.