FOURTEENTH SUNDAY ORDIANRY TIME, 2019
In the Gospel today, Jesus sends out seventy-two disciples to proclaim the Kingdom of God. Jesus tells them to travel without supplies, having faith that God will provide. Jesus instructs them to meet with the people in their homes for Jesus desires to have a personal relationship with each person. Jesus also tells the seventy-two not to be concerned about their inability to cause a change of heart in everyone, but to walk away harboring no resentment leaving the disbelievers to their fate of one day facing God’s judgment.
So how do these words of the Gospel find meaning for us today? We are Christ’s modern-day disciples sent out to invite others to come to know Jesus. That does not mean that we need to walk barefoot to the surrounding towns and begin knocking on homes and asking if the family knows about the Kingdom of God. We all know how irritating it is when it happens to us. Like the seventy-two, we are to proclaim the love of Jesus to those we encounter by our manner and our expressions of faith. The most effective evangelist is one expresses him or herself by examples of right living, prayer, and a willingness to speak of Jesus when asked.
We cannot force our faith on to anyone. We cannot make a person love Jesus any more than parents can make a 3-year-old enthused about eating cook spinach. If the child defies the request, then the parents are forced to use promises, threats, pleading, and other assorted tactics to get compliance. Consumption may occur, but that does not mean the child enjoyed the experience.
Jesus is not looking for people who are made to believe, forced into faith by the proposition of going to hell for not turning to Jesus or ridiculing other faiths. If one becomes Catholic because of threats or false promises, then the love and joy of being with the Lord will not be realized. We are then looking at a person who cut corners, who make the minimum effort to be compliant because they only follow the rules. The Catholic faith has no value, like convincing the 3-year-old eating spinach is good for him. Instead, Jesus wants converts who react from a desire for his message of salvation offers.
Therefore, even if becoming a follower of Jesus is the healthiest option for another’s soul, we must allow him or her the time to develop a longing for the truth. It may be a long, onerous process with many retreats before the individual turns toward the salvation Jesus offers. The decision to commit to Jesus, however, is between the person and the Lord. Remember that the Lord is working within the hearts everyone to bring the love of Jesus to their consciousness. It not for us to determine the time that conversion will occur. Our efforts as Christ’s disciple, is to plant the seed of a thought into their soul. It is God who will nourish the idea bringing it to fruition.
Conversion, therefore, happens only when a person is ready. Christ too failed to convert some in his ministry (think Pharisees). If our efforts of evangelization are made with words and actions that are pleasing to the Lord, then we have met our obligation. If we have faith, then we know that God will continue to build on the work we have begun by our words and actions.
The seventy-two that Jesus sent out were no different from us. The only tools necessary to evangelize are a belief in Jesus, frequently praying and speaking a personal way about the love we have for Jesus, demonstrating that we understand those words in how we live our lives. Simple words that express a personal relationship with Jesus have much more meaning than any theological oration.
When we listen to a homily, we are stirred to our very souls when one speaks of Christ’s message from the heart instead of a homily that speaks only academic renditions of religion. We want to hear a message that thrills us to know that Jesus is alive within us and calling us to be one with him. These are the stories that evangelize those who need a planting of the seeds of desire to know more about Jesus.
Therefore, be true to the faith you profess. Live your life, knowing that Jesus is at your side to give you strength when encountering daily difficulties and celebrate with you on the moments where the work of God is evident. Be the one who stands out in the workplace, the checkout line, the ball field, or a restaurant because your actions demonstrate that nothing can shake your inmost calm because Jesus is with you. Be prepared to tell your faith story when asked. Tell your story with sincerity, of your struggles in understanding, your conversions after sinning, and your ongoing commitment to Jesus.
And presto, you are an evangelist. These are the stories that pull people to want to know of the salvation that Jesus promises. Blessed are you who speak the word of God from your heart, for you know the love of the Lord.
Deacon Dan Gilbert