Summary: "an evangelizer must never look like someone who has just come back from a funeral."
Thursday of 24th Week in Course
St. Joseph Cupertino
Pharisees don’t come off very well in the Gospels. Pharisaic religion, though, was considered by the Jews to be the very summit of Jewish observance. After all, it applied to all its adherents the entire Law, even those clearly meant only for the priestly class of Jews. But when Jesus came along, the Pharisees didn’t know what to think or do about Him. He was holy without being a stickler for the finer points of Torah. When his disciples were hungry on Saturday, he let them pick grain from the fields and eat it. Why, they were supposed to do that on Friday and then rest, not pick grain. Alternately, I guess, they could starve. When Jesus came upon the disabled, He would heal them, even on the Sabbath. Jesus replied, if you can haul your ass out of a hole on the Sabbath, why can’t I lift this person out of His infirmity? And if this sinful woman wants to repent of her sins and lavish me with loving attention, isn’t that better than you self-righteous fop inviting me to dinner and then ignoring me? Just like you drape yourself with holy objects and talk about God all the time, while all the time ignoring duties of justice. We must remember that St. Paul was a super-Pharisee until he actually met Jesus. That encounter changed his life, and that encounter literally changed the Roman world.
St. Paul founded churches throughout Asia Minor and Greece. He also went to Rome, where there was already a Catholic community. Tradition takes him for a short time to Spain, before his final arrest and martyrdom. When you are filled with the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ, you cannot sit back and just enjoy the experience. The Holy Father tells us in his letter: “Goodness always tends to spread. Every authentic experience of truth and goodness seeks by its very nature to grow within us, and any person who has experienced a profound liberation becomes more sensitive to the needs of others. As it expands, goodness takes root and develops. If we wish to lead a dignified and fulfilling life, we have to reach out to others and seek their good. In this regard, several sayings of Saint Paul will not surprise us: “The love of Christ urges us on” (2 Cor 5:14); “Woe to me if I do not proclaim the Gospel” (1 Cor 9:16).
The Gospel offers us the chance to live life on a higher plane, but with no less intensity: “Life grows by being given away, and it weakens in isolation and comfort. Indeed, those who enjoy life most are those who leave security on the shore and become excited by the mission of communicating life to others”. When the Church summons Christians to take up the task of evangelization, she is simply pointing to the source of authentic personal fulfilment. For “here we discover a profound law of reality: that life is attained and matures in the measure that it is offered up in order to give life to others. This is certainly what mission means” Consequently, an evangelizer must never look like someone who has just come back from a funeral! Let us recover and deepen our enthusiasm, that “delightful and comforting joy of evangelizing, even when it is in tears that we must sow… And may the world of our time, which is searching, sometimes with anguish, sometimes with hope, be enabled to receive the good news not from evangelizers who are dejected, discouraged, impatient or anxious, but from ministers of the Gospel whose lives glow with fervour, who have first received the joy of Christ”
When I used to encounter someone I know, whether intimately or lightly, like everyone else, I used to answer the “How are you?” question by saying, “fine.” By the way, I once heard on a movie that the word “fine” is short for “freaked-out, insecure, nervous and emotional.”
Now I am in the habit of responding, “Grateful.” That response takes a relationship to a potentially higher plane, because it implies that I am grateful for something or someone. It seems to cheer the day even of people who don’t continue the conversation. It is my way of continually evangelizing–that and a constant expression of joy. I see that in people of our parish, and hope that it means we are always on the lookout for someone to help, for someone to pray for.