Summary: Our mission to others must be underlaid with a foundation of personal devotion to Jesus Christ.

Thursday in 6th Week of Easter 2016

Joy of the Gospel

St. Paul’s relationship with the church at Corinth was long, fruitful, and fraught with problems. But it is Corinth that gives us testimony of the historical reliability of the Acts of the Apostles. “Before AD 50, an area 62 feet square was paved with stone at the northeast corner of the theatre in Corinth, Greece. Excavations there revealed part of a Latin inscription carved into the pavement which reads, ‘Erastus in return for his aedilship laid [the pavement] at his own expense.’ The Erastus of this inscription is identified in the excavation publication as the Erastus mentioned by Paul in Romans, a letter written from Corinth, in which Erastus is referred to as ‘the city treasurer’ [Romans 16:23]… the particular Greek word used by Paul for ‘treasurer’ (oikonomos) is an appropriate term to describe the work of a Corinthian aedile or magistrate supervising public works.” A few verses after this we will hear of the proconsul Gallio. An inscription at Delphi laid by emperor Claudius attests to Gallio as the friend and proconsul of Claudius. A hotbed of vice, Corinth became a center of Christian evangelization because of its status as an important trade center. Paul wrote at least two, and perhaps four, letters to Corinth. It occupied a special place in his heart. From his first letter, we derive what is probably the earliest documentation of how the Christians celebrated Mass, and it’s essentially what we do today.

The Holy Father has been looking at prayer as essential to evangelization, to spreading the joy of the Gospel: ‘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 defense 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.

‘The primary reason for evangelizing is the love of Jesus which we have received, the experience of salvation which urges us to ever greater love of him. What kind of love would not feel the need to speak of the beloved, to point him out, to make him known? If we do not feel an intense desire to share this love, we need to pray insistently that he will once more touch our hearts. We need to implore his grace daily, asking him to open our cold hearts and shake up our lukewarm and superficial existence. Standing before him with open hearts, letting him look at us, we see that gaze of love which Nathaniel glimpsed on the day when Jesus said to him: “I saw you under the fig tree” (Jn 1:48). How good it is to stand before a crucifix, or on our knees before the Blessed Sacrament, and simply to be in his presence! How much good it does us when he once more touches our lives and impels us to share his new life! What then happens is that “we speak of what we have seen and heard” (1 Jn 1:3). The best incentive for sharing the Gospel comes from contemplating it with love, lingering over its pages and reading it with the heart. If we approach it in this way, its beauty will amaze and constantly excite us. But if this is to come about, we need to recover a contemplative spirit which can help us to realize ever anew that we have been entrusted with a treasure which makes us more human and helps us to lead a new life. There is nothing more precious which we can give to others.’

The absolute devotion that Pope Francis has to the person and mission of Jesus comes through well in these writings. Here we see him opening his heart to us and challenging us to develop a rich spiritual life, a real contemplative spirit. With this, we can weather any storm that our culture of death conjures up, because we have built on the only sure foundation–Jesus Christ.

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