Summary: The Holy Father teaches us about reforming our approach to the missionary mandate, so that we may appeal to a new generation in their own language.
Thursday of 27th Week in Course 2014
The Joy of the Gospel
St. Paul may have been at his hottest when he wrote the letter to the church in Galatia. Let’s position this church. Galatia was an area of Asia Minor, roughly in the upper center of Turkey today, where some illegal alien Gauls had settled many decades before Paul’s visit. They had both Jews and Christians among them. They were Paul’s spiritual sons and daughters, but the Jewish Christians who came to visit them had convinced them that to be true followers of Christ, they had to become Jewish Christians, complete with circumcision and obedience to the Mosaic Law. In other words, they had to become Pharisees.
Now the Galatian church had experienced all the gifts of the Holy Spirit, including healing and miracles and tongues and prophecy. Paul reminds them that they did not receive these gifts by circumcision or celebrating Yom Kippur. These gifts were won by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross, not some goat on a Jewish altar. Please note that many Catholics interpret the first verse of today’s Epistle, “Who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified?” as evidence that early Christians employed a crucifix in their teaching. The cross is our glory; the passion, death and Resurrection of Jesus earned our salvation and sanctification and mission. As Jesus says, after experiencing the sacramental presence of Christ in our lives, we can ask for anything, and the Father will respond by giving us the Holy Spirit. Then we can be truly effective in spreading the joy of the Gospel.
For the past couple of months we have been considering the first eighteen paragraphs of the Holy Father’s letter on the joy of the Gospel. Now we will move into the seven major areas of concern and instruction. The first is reforming the Church in her missionary outreach:
Pope Francis tells us: “Evangelization takes place in obedience to the missionary mandate of Jesus: ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you’ (Mt 28:19-20). In these verses we see how the risen Christ sent his followers to preach the Gospel in every time and place, so that faith in him might spread to every corner of the earth.
“The word of God constantly shows us how God challenges those who believe in him ‘to go
forth’. Abraham received the call to set out for a new land (cf. Gen 12:1-3). Moses heard God’s call: ‘Go, I send you’ (Ex 3:10) and led the people towards the promised land (cf. Ex 3:17). To Jeremiah God says: ‘To all whom I send you, you shall go’ (Jer 1:7). In our day Jesus’ command to ‘go and make disciples’ echoes in the changing scenarios and ever new challenges to the Church’s mission of evangelization, and all of us are called to take part in this new missionary ‘going forth’. Each Christian and every community must discern the path that the Lord points out, but all of us are asked to obey his call to go forth from our own comfort zone in order to reach all the ‘peripheries’ in need of the light of the Gospel.