Summary: All that we do must culminate in the proclamation of the Gospel of Christ.

Thursday of 7th Week of Easter 2017

Joy of the Gospel

The Gospel passage we just proclaimed is one of those moments we are tempted to take comfort in and not think about. It seems all warm and fuzzy and a little like a group hug: “You in me and I in you and everybody else in us all sweet and cozy.” I don’t doubt that the words are consoling, and meant to be consoling, but we also have to look at this business of us being given the glory that the Father gave Jesus. And we need to remember that, for John and Paul, the glory of Christ and the glory of the Christian is the self-sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. Both of these great early theologians and disciples saw the cross as the throne of Christ, and our own destiny. In our suffering, even in our persecution, we are closest to Christ. After all, participation in Holy Communion is our “Amen” to all of what Jesus calls us to, especially His passion.

St. Paul, the great missionary to the Gentiles, is pictured here in Acts making a bold and rather clever play. As he defends his mission among the Gentiles to a Roman judge, he seizes upon the Resurrection of Christ and his belief in the resurrection of the dead to set the Pharisees, who believed in the resurrection, against the Sadducees, who did not. It backfires and almost ends in his being torn apart by the rival factions. But the God who writes straight with crooked lines uses this to begin Paul’s big adventure of taking the Gospel to Rome. As Paul is at prayer in the Roman barracks the next day, Jesus Himself appears and assures him of that call.

Every action we take that is inspired by the Holy Spirit should be directed toward taking the Gospel to those who most need it. The Holy Father writes: ‘Spirit-filled evangelizers are evangelizers who pray and work. Mystical notions without a solid social and missionary outreach are of no help to evangelization, nor are dissertations or social or pastoral practices which lack a spirituality which can change hearts. These unilateral and incomplete proposals only reach a few groups and prove incapable of radiating beyond them because they curtail the Gospel. What is needed is the ability to cultivate an interior space which can give a Christian meaning to commitment and activity. Without prolonged moments of adoration, of prayerful encounter with the word, of sincere conversation with the Lord, our work easily becomes meaningless; we lose energy as a result of weariness and difficulties, and our fervour dies out. The Church urgently needs the deep breath of prayer, and to my great joy groups devoted to prayer and intercession, the prayerful reading of God’s word and the perpetual adoration of the Eucharist are growing at every level of ecclesial life. Even so, “we must reject the temptation to offer a privatized and individualistic spirituality which ill accords with the demands of charity, to say nothing of the implications of the incarnation”. There is always the risk that some moments of prayer can become an excuse for not offering one’s life in mission; a privatized lifestyle can lead Christians to take refuge in some false forms of spirituality.

‘We do well to keep in mind the early Christians and our many brothers and sisters throughout history who were filled with joy, unflagging courage and zeal in proclaiming the Gospel. Some people nowadays console themselves by saying that things are not as easy as they used to be, yet we know that the Roman empire was not conducive to the Gospel message, the struggle for justice, or the defence of human dignity. Every period of history is marked by the presence of human weakness, self-absorption, complacency and selfishness, to say nothing of the concupiscence which preys upon us all. These things are ever present under one guise or another; they are due to our human limits rather than particular situations. Let us not say, then, that things are harder today; they are simply different. But let us learn also from the saints who have gone before us, who confronted the difficulties of their own day. So I propose that we pause to rediscover some of the reasons which can help us to imitate them today.’

In the coming weeks, as we celebrate the time after Pentecost Sunday next, we will hear the Pope’s reasons why we should imitate our forbears, the saints. As we celebrate the original and continuing coming of the Holy Spirit, let’s pray for the grace to listen, and the opportunities to share, the good news of Christ’s saving work.

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