July 7, 2019
Luke 10:1-12, 17-20
How can we bring Jesus to others when Jesus is already there? This is the paradox of Christian discipleship. In today’s gospel, Jesus sends out seventy-two disciples ahead of him to proclaim the kingdom of God. It is clear from this gospel that all of us have a mission to share our faith, to share our knowledge of God with others. But we should never think that we do this in a world in which God is absent. God is present to every creature. Jesus is committed to every person we encounter. So the good news of God is not something we own or control. We should not think that Jesus is the exclusive property of the church or that God can be held tightly by our imperfect formulations of faith. Such a belief would be false doctrine. It would also be arrogant.
When we preach the gospel, we do not show up with Jesus, as if we were delivering a pizza. Our purpose is to identify in the lives of others the ways in which Jesus is already present to them. If we wish to be proclaimers of God’s word, we must be people of humility, realizing that Jesus is already there before we arrive.
Many of us have members of our family who do not practice the Christian faith. Maybe at one time they did, but do so no longer. How do we preach the gospel to them? Not by lecturing them where they should be on Sunday mornings. But rather by humbly making ourselves a part of their lives, celebrating with them their blessings, standing with them in their struggles. They know how much our faith means to us and our presence to them gives that faith credibility. Our love and acceptance of them is a proclamation of the kingdom of God.
Whenever someone in our life suffers from loss or pain, we have an opportunity to proclaim the gospel. When someone must cope with the loss of a loved one in death, the breakup of a marriage, or a serious illness, our compassion and our presence are signs that God is near. We do not need to wear our faith on our sleeve. Simple words such as “I am praying for you,” are more powerful than deep theological arguments. They witness that God is close and that God cares.
When we see something that is wrong, an injustice in our workplace, bullying in our school, we have the chance to proclaim the gospel. We do this not by offering scripture quotations, but by standing with the person who is demeaned and insisting, “This is not right. This needs to change.” They will see in our commitment and courage the faith that motivates us, and they will hear that the kingdom of God is at hand.
We are called to spread the gospel. This means we must be people of faith and commitment. But it is the humble person who is most likely to succeed. A friend is more effective than a philosopher. A companion progresses more easily than a teacher. A servant moves hearts more deeply than an orator. Perhaps St. Francis of Assisi said it best when he told his disciples “Preach the gospel always and, if necessary, use words.”
Let us begin today.