Summary: "My mission of being in the heart of the people is not just a part of my life or a badge I can take off"

Thursday of 14th Week in Course 2017

Joy of the Gospel

When you are in love with someone, when you really care more about that person than anyone else in the world, what is the worst thing that could happen? Rejection. The beloved turns away and tells you to go away, and all of a sudden the world just kind of collapses around you. There had to be something like that going on in Joseph’s world when his brothers stripped him of his special coat and threw him into that dry cistern and then sold him as a slave. That rejection gnawed at Joseph for over a decade, and when he got power in Egypt, he must have been tempted to get revenge on his brothers. But ultimately his affection for them and his brother Benjamin and his father, Jacob overwhelmed that need to get back at his kin, and he in tears exclaimed “I am Joseph, your brother.” All of us who long to share the Good News with those we know end up being invested in their eternal welfare. Sometimes they will reject the Gospel, and shame on us if it doesn’t hurt to hear the rejection.

The Holy Father encourages that drive to be united with those we are ministering to: ‘Loving others is a spiritual force drawing us to union with God; indeed, one who does not love others “walks in the darkness” (1 Jn 2:11), “remains in death” (1 Jn 3:14) and “does not know God” (1 Jn 4:8). Benedict XVI has said that “closing our eyes to our neighbor also blinds us to God”, and that love is, in the end, the only light which “can always illuminate a world grown dim and give us the courage needed to keep living and working”. When we live out a spirituality of drawing nearer to others and seeking their welfare, our hearts are opened wide to the Lord’s greatest and most beautiful gifts. Whenever we encounter another person in love, we learn something new about God. Whenever our eyes are opened to acknowledge the other, we grow in the light of faith and knowledge of God. If we want to advance in the spiritual life, then, we must constantly be missionaries. The work of evangelization enriches the mind and the heart; it opens up spiritual horizons; it makes us more and more sensitive to the workings of the Holy Spirit, and it takes us beyond our limited spiritual constructs. A committed missionary knows the joy of being a spring which spills over and refreshes others. Only the person who feels happiness in seeking the good of others, in desiring their happiness, can be a missionary. This openness of the heart is a source of joy, since “it is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). We do not live better when we flee, hide, refuse to share, stop giving and lock ourselves up in own comforts. Such a life is nothing less than slow suicide.

‘My mission of being in the heart of the people is not just a part of my life or a badge I can take off; it is not an “extra” or just another moment in life. Instead, it is something I cannot uproot from my being without destroying my very self. I am a mission on this earth; that is the reason why I am here in this world. We have to regard ourselves as sealed, even branded, by this mission of bringing light, blessing, enlivening, raising up, healing and freeing. All around us we begin to see nurses with soul, teachers with soul, politicians with soul, people who have chosen deep down to be with others and for others. But once we separate our work from our private lives, everything turns grey and we will always be seeking recognition or asserting our needs. We stop being a people.’

If the Gospel message is met with scorn or ridicule, if we and our Good News are rejected, then it is probable that trying to overcome the pride or guilt or whatever it is that is keeping our neighbor from accepting Christ would be the worst possible idea. We might need to turn about and shake the dust from our feet. Charitably. But always keep open communication. Some day God, that wonderful Hound of Heaven, will nudge our neighbor back toward the right path, and we will be able to walk with him or her again and encourage the spiritual repentance and growth that they, as well as we, need every day.

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