Witness and Proclamation

One of the things I love about the Easter season is that each year our first Mass readings come from Acts, the book that teaches about the founding of the Christian church and the early spread of Christianity.

Today’s passage from Acts is one of my favorites. The “leaders, elders and scribes,” having observed “the boldness of Peter and John,” determine that they must stop the spread of what they are proclaiming.  So they haul the two in and order them “not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.”

Fat chance.  Peter and John, in no uncertain terms, insist: “Whether it is right in the sight of God for us to obey you rather than God, you be the judges. It is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard.”

It is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard.

Pope Francis has placed much emphasis on our need to encounter Christ.  For good reason: We can’t share what we don’t have.  We can’t effectively evangelize others unless we ourselves have been touched by Christ.  Oh, we can tell them about some things we have read, but we can’t ignite a spark in them.

And the flip side is what we see in today’s reading: If we have encountered Christ, we can’t help but share it.   Evangelization is not a job we “have” to do; rather it is a natural outpouring of our own experience.  If  we have been touched by Christ, we can’t help but share it.  That is the urge that I think Peter and John are expressing. 

This Easter season invites us to experience the risen Christ.  To encounter Christ. Only then can we fulfill the charge to proclaim the Gospel to all nations.

 

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One thought on “Witness and Proclamation

  1. In His name. . .

    Encounters in marketplace or on site most always elicit. “Thank you for sharing and bringing a smile to our faces.” The encounters all, often not with the oldest of friends – they are most often with the newest of sisters and brothers in ‘Spirit’ who have emigrated from China, Japan, the Philippines, India, Somalia, Egypt, Jerusalem, Palestine, Jordan, Syria, Afghanistan, Iran, Turkey, Ukraine, Russia, Moldova, Bosnia, Italy, and Mexico – encounters all where affirmation, diversity, equality and God’s Love, (within awareness of my Catholic heritage) ‘always’ introduce the presence of the Holy Spirit.

    What we bring to and share during our encounters comes from the’ Gift’ of ‘Love and Spirit’ within – no matter the name each may assign to God, Creator or higher power. Joined one to the other are we – more by the inscription on the bracelet I never leave home without, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. John 15:12, than by affiliated beliefs personally held.

    The presence of ‘Spirit’ (the Holy Spirit) as experienced intrigues, She intrigues as the ‘thread’ that joins such a vast array of precious lives (spirits and souls as pearls) one to the other. When joined, our personal relationships create bonds that transcend individual concepts of ‘God’ and create ties that bind while illuminating an earthly family ‘ours’ that is often expressed and experienced as His Kingdom Come. . .

    Gatherings and meals shared, often similar to a multi-cultural ‘Agape,’ and celebrated as family; a family universal similar to gatherings within the secure and safe walls of St. Perpetua’s father’s Carthaginian (Roman) estate. Gatherings where slave, free and noble were affirmed and celebrated as ‘One’ – until venturing outside the walls to encounter cultural expectations that traditionally culled, categorized, castigated and separated each from the other – each, whose ‘Love and Spirit’ within naturally joined. . .

    Today, such a paradox. Inclusive messages of love, mercy and forgiveness proclaimed to unite continue to gradually take root ‘outside the walls’ (in public) through secular affirmations and actions of ‘the many’ – while messages of love, forgiveness and mercy often decreed by those ordained to shepherd ‘the many’ often wither ‘within the secure and safe walls’ of places ‘Sacred and Holy.’

    In his October interview last year, Pope Emeritus Benedict confirmed “. . . that faith has both a personal and a communal nature, saying that “the encounter with God means also, at the same time, that I myself become open, torn from my closed solitude and received into the living community of the Church.”

    “Servais: In the Spiritual Exercises, Ignatius of Loyola does not use the Old Testament images of revenge, as opposed to Paul (cfr. 2 Thessalonians 1: 5-9); nevertheless he invites us to contemplate how men, until the Incarnation, “descended into hell” (Spiritual Exercises n. 102; see. ds iv, 376) and to consider the example of the “countless others who ended up there for far fewer sins than I have I committed” (Spiritual Exercises, n. 52). It is in this spirit that St. Francis Xavier lived his pastoral work, convinced he had to try to save from the terrible fate of eternal damnation as many “infidels” as possible.”

    To Servais, Pope Benedict responded:

    “In the second half of the last century it has been fully affirmed the understanding that God cannot let go to perdition all the unbaptized and that even a purely natural happiness for them does not represent a real answer to the question of human existence. If it is true that the great missionaries of the 16th century were still convinced that those who are not baptized are forever lost – and this explains their missionary commitment – in the Catholic Church after the Second Vatican Council that conviction was finally abandoned.”

    “From this came a deep double crisis. On the one hand this seems to remove any motivation for a future missionary commitment. Why should one try to convince the people to accept the Christian faith when they can be saved even without it? But also for Christians an issue emerged: the obligatory nature of the faith and its way of life began to seem uncertain and problematic. If there are those who can save themselves in other ways, it is not clear, in the final analysis, why the Christian himself is bound by the requirements of the Christian faith and its morals. If faith and salvation are no longer interdependent, faith itself becomes unmotivated.”

    Before ‘Divine Mercy Sunday’ Mass this morning, Father Anthony (Cologne, Minnesota) of EWTN proclaimed, ‘Before the Incarnation, the Gates of Heaven remained closed to all humankind. . .

    During this the ‘Year of Mercy’ has Holy Mother Church returned to a belief that the ‘Two Great Commandments proclaimed to all nations must be accompanied by ‘Her Truth’ that there is but ‘One True’ Church?

    Is not God’s unconditional Love, Mercy and forgiveness so much more – and so much more inclusive?

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