Sharing the Good News, here and now!

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14th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C: July 7, 2013
Isa 66:10-14; Ps 66; Gal 6:14-18; Luke 10:1-12, 17-20

What an adventure these 72 disciples of Jesus experienced! What a commission, and what results! Our Gospel reading today comes within the long, gradual journey that our Lord Jesus is making from Galilee to Jerusalem, where he will give his life for us on the cross. And we hear today about how he sent these 72 disciples of his ahead of him to every town and place he intended to visit.

Can you imagine being sent on that mission? Going with one other person to places you had never been; speaking to people you had never met; traveling light, as he instructed; moving fast; knowing that many would reject your message, but just moving on to those who would receive it? Can you imagine if Jesus were here, right now, sending you forth? Leave everything; leave your normal homes and lives; go and spread the news!

Members of our youth group have been learning a little about this lately, as they have been planning and carrying out three different evangelization projects—three ways, all different from each other, of spreading the Gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ, to those who need to hear it, or need to hear it again. The second of these projects occurred yesterday, when about ten of them tried street evangelization: going out into a public place with a number of people walking around, wearing t-shirts designed with this logo (“God Loves You,” in which the heart is the Sacred Heart of Jesus), being available to talk, and handing out rosaries and cards that read: “‘May the peace of Christ reign in your hearts; let the message of Christ find a home with you.’ (Col 3:15-16) St. Martin of Tours Youth Group.”

Perhaps you won’t be journeying in pairs to towns in the Holy Land or going out into the streets of Gaithersburg with our youth group. But our Lord’s commission to spread the Gospel is something that applies to the Church in every age, not just some time in the past; and it applies to every one of the baptized, not just to a select few.

  • To evangelize at its simplest involves preparing people to meet Jesus—and even introducing them to him.
  • And just as those 36 pairs of disciples surely planned their routes, dividing up the different towns they needed to visit, so that they wouldn’t duplicate efforts or miss anywhere—so too the Holy Spirit has arranged the route you will follow in your evangelization. For it is the route of your own individual life, right now. No one else walks exactly the path that you walk each day; no one else goes to exactly the same combination of places or interacts with exactly the same combination of people! You have been assigned and placed within your own personal evangelization route.

And so, how will you carry out this mission? I want to consider briefly three points: story, permission, and answers.

First, the story: what story do you have to tell? The 72 disciples could all tell of the first time they met Jesus, and what they had heard him say and seen him do during their time following him. That was their story; what’s yours? When did you first meet Jesus? How have you gotten to know him better? How has he changed your life? What questions has he answered for you? How has he strengthened you? How has he healed you? How has he freed you? How has he transformed your life? I would invite you to look back over your life and reflect upon these experiences; pray about them; practice telling others about them. Maybe you don’t always look so great in these stories; but that’s okay, because Jesus is the hero of these stories, while you are the one being helped and saved. These real, personal stories from your life are where God has written within your actual life, upon your actual heart; and those glowing words are worth sharing.

Second, permission: do others have permission to approach you to talk about your Catholic faith? Maybe when we think about evangelization we think about inserting ourselves into other people’s lives, starting the conversation, making them engage; and sometimes there is a place for that. But often it is just a matter of letting them know that you are available to talk, that they have permission to bring it up to you, and that they can do so at the moment when they want to. One Catholic street evangelization ministry (St. Paul Street Evangelization) often uses the method of simply placing two or three people in a public place, standing near a sandwich board sign that lets people know that they are Catholic and available; and then they talk with anyone who approaches them. In just such a way, you too can signal such permission in your daily life. Cardinal Wuerl, in his Pastoral Letter on the New Evangelization, suggested “blessing ourselves before a meal in a restaurant, offering to pray for someone in need, keeping a devotional item on our desk at work, or wearing a crucifix for others to see.” All of these can say: I’m Catholic; I know Jesus; I believe; and it’s okay to talk to me about these things whenever you want. You have permission.

Third, answers: do you have answers to offer for the questions that they will ask you? What if they ask you why you believe that God exists, or how Catholicism is different from any other religion? What if they ask why you honor the Virgin Mary or follow the Pope? What if they ask questions about sexual morality, abortion, or marriage? Do you know some of the good, true, and helpful responses that you can give to questions like that?—and you know that they will ask them! Last Tuesday, some of us were talking through possible answers to questions like these with the youth, in case they should be asked them on the street on Saturday. How will you learn good answers like these? One way is through classes offered by the parish or the diocese—such as the “Living Catholic” and “Faith Foundations” courses that you can participate in here or at other parishes or online. I would also recommend the Catechism of the Catholic Church—which is an essential reference book for any Catholic family. It has a great index, so that you can look up any topic that you have a question about, and find out answers that you can offer to people’s questions.

But what if you yourself need answers? What if you are having trouble believing some of the teachings of the Church on these controversial issues? Or what if you don’t have much of a story to tell? What if you haven’t really experienced meeting our Lord Jesus, and you don’t really know him? If that is you, then it is great that you can recognize that. Please pray about that, and perhaps contact me or another priest, or someone you know who is spiritually alive and mature in the Catholic faith, so that you can receive the answers and spiritual connection that you need.

Because this is Good News. Our Lord Jesus is the Savior of the World; and every person you know desperately needs him. You can prepare the way for him; you can introduce them to him. Our Lord Jesus said, “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.” You can be the answer to that prayer!

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