Summary: God's plan is truly a surprise, but it is always directed toward our salvation and the spread of the Gospel.
Thursday of the 28th Week in Course 2014
Joy of the Gospel
The Holy Father’s letter on the Joy of the Gospel tells us: “God’s word is unpredictable in its power. The Gospel speaks of a seed which, once sown, grows by itself, even as the farmer sleeps (Mk 4:26-29). The Church has to accept this unruly freedom of the word, which accomplishes what it wills in ways that surpass our calculations and ways of thinking.”
The Father set forth his purpose in Christ as a plan for the fulness of time–a period we are living in now–to do something that humans had been unable to do in the thousands of years since the first man and woman, since the first sin. The Father wants to unite all things in Jesus Christ, things in heaven and on earth. Remember the story of the Tower of Babel. Human beings tend to unite around destructive purposes–nationalism, economic imperialism, having power over others. That’s the meaning of the term “gang.” I am rightly fearful of folks “ganging up” on me. We know what it means to be bullied. That’s why there is a gut revulsion against gangs like the Islamic state, particularly gangs that pretend to be motivated by their god.
So Jesus did battle with the religious gang that was successfully trying to corrupt the true Hebrew religion. They were called Pharisees. The Word of God, Jesus, was accomplishing what the Father willed in a way that surpasses any calculation they–or we–might have made. It was to be by becoming the Suffering Servant, and by dying on the cross and giving us new life through water and the Spirit. The One who is all-powerful gave up that power and became weak like us in all things except sin, so that He could make it possible for us to give up our self-will and power over others and live to serve them instead.
The Pope goes on: ‘The Church’s closeness to Jesus is part of a common journey; “communion and mission are profoundly interconnected” In fidelity to the example of the Master, it is vitally important for the Church today to go forth and preach the Gospel to all: to all places, on all occasions, without hesitation, reluctance or fear. The joy of the Gospel is for all people: no one can be excluded. That is what the angel proclaimed to the shepherds in Bethlehem: “Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people (Lk 2:10). The Book of Revelation speaks of “an eternal Gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tongue and tribe and people” (Rev 14:6).
‘The Church which “goes forth” is a community of missionary disciples who take the first step, who are involved and supportive, who bear fruit and rejoice. An evangelizing community knows that the Lord has taken the initiative, he has loved us first (cf. 1 Jn 4:19), and therefore we can move forward, boldly take the initiative, go out to others, seek those who have fallen away, stand at the crossroads and welcome the outcast. Such a community has an endless desire to show mercy, the fruit of its own experience of the power of the Father’s infinite mercy. Let us try a little harder to take the first step and to become involved. Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. The Lord gets involved and he involves his own, as he kneels to wash their feet. He tells his disciples: “You will be blessed if you do this” (Jn 13:17). An evangelizing community gets involved by word and deed in people’s daily lives; it bridges distances, it is willing to abase itself if necessary, and it embraces human life, touching the suffering flesh of Christ in others. Evangelizers thus take on the “smell of the sheep” and the sheep are willing to hear their voice. An evangelizing community is also supportive, standing by people at every step of the way, no matter how difficult or lengthy this may prove to be. It is familiar with patient expectation and apostolic endurance. Evangelization consists mostly of patience and disregard for constraints of time. Faithful to the Lord’s gift, it also bears fruit. An evangelizing community is always concerned with fruit, because the Lord wants her to be fruitful. It cares for the grain and does not grow impatient at the weeds. The sower, when he sees weeds sprouting among the grain does not grumble or overreact. He or she finds a way to let the word take flesh in a particular situation and bear fruits of new life, however imperfect or incomplete these may appear. The disciple is ready to put his or her whole life on the line, even to accepting martyrdom, in bearing witness to Jesus Christ, yet the goal is not to make enemies but to see God’s word accepted and its capacity for liberation and renewal revealed. Finally an evangelizing community is filled with joy; it knows how to rejoice always. It celebrates every small victory, every step forward in the work of evangelization. Evangelization with joy becomes beauty in the liturgy, as part of our daily concern to spread goodness. The Church evangelizes and is herself evangelized through the beauty of the liturgy, which is both a celebration of the task of evangelization and the source of her renewed self-giving.’