Sunday, July 3, 2016

The Joy of the Gospel

Jesus, I trust in you!

There is a sense of urgency in the sending of the disciples to preach about the coming of the Kingdom of God: Go on your way, I am sending you like lambs among wolves. By commanding the disciples to bring neither money bag, nor sack, nor sandals, the Lord wanted them to travel light. “Greet no one along the way” so that nothing can delay them from fulfilling their task. Perhaps you have seen those trucks that bore the signs “Government project: do not delay.” The mission to evangelize is something like that. Each of us is sent to evangelize: God’s project: do not delay.”

I suppose that this sense of urgency springs from the importance of the message we are supposed to bring to others: “The Kingdom of God is at hand for you.” The coming of the Kingdom of God is indeed important because it is the means by which God gives all men access to his divine life. The Father wants all of us to share in his divine life. That is why he gathers men around his Son and this gathering is the Church which on earth is the beginning of the Kingdom of God. The Lord wants to gather us all in the Church so that we might have life: “Oh, that you may suck fully of the milk of her comfort, that you may nurse with delight at her abundant breasts! For thus says the Lord: Lo, I will spread prosperity over Jerusalem like a river, and the wealth of the nations like an overflowing torrent. As nurslings, you shall be carried in her arms, and fondled in her lap; as a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you; in Jerusalem you shall find your comfort.” The Lord uses the tender image of a mother nursing her child in order to reveal to us the tenderness of his love which desires nothing but goodness for all of us. The Lord comforts us through the Church which is the new Jerusalem. We should always consider the Church as our mother.  (Because of the popularity of receiving communion by the hand, the reception of communion on the tongue is unappreciated by many. I find this unfortunate because receiving Communion on the tongue reminds us of the time when as little children, we were fed by the hand of our mothers. This manner of receiving Communion expresses the motherly gesture of the Church.)

The tenderness of a mother’s love always brings delight. It brings joy because it is life giving. A person who experienced a mother’s love grows and finds fulfillment. In the same way, we who experienced the love of God through the Church grow to maturity and eventually we seek means to fulfillment. The challenge to go and evangelize gives us the opportunity to find real fulfillment. “The Gospel offers us the chance to live life on a higher plane: ‘Life grows by being given away, and it weakens in isolation and comfort. Indeed, those who enjoy life the most are those who leave security on the shore and become excited by the mission of communicating life to others.’ When the Church summons Christians to take up the task of evangelization, she is simply pointing to the source of authentic fulfillment. For ‘here we discover a profound law of reality: that life is attained and matures in the measure that it is offered up in order to give life to others. This is certainly what mission means.’” (Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, 10.) A loving mother gives life to loving children. Eventually her children become parents themselves. They who have been given life by their mother eventually desire to give life to others. This is precisely what evangelization is all about: it is about the passing on of a life-giving tradition. I have been given life. Now, I want to give life to others. I have been given joy. Now, I want to pass on this joy to others. “Consequently, an evangelizer must never look like someone who has just come back from a funeral! Let us recover and deepen our enthusiasm, that ‘delightful and comforting joy of evangelizing, even when it is in tears that we must sow…And may the world of our time, which is searching, sometimes in anguish, sometimes with hope, be enabled to receive the good news not from evangelizers who are dejected, impatient or anxious, but from ministers of the Gospel whose lives glow with fervor, who have first received the joy of Christ.’” (Ibid.)

O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee. 

Nothing more important than this

Jesus, I trust in you!

“Jesus resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem…” These words of St. Luke fittingly describe the life and mission of Jesus on earth. The very purpose of his coming to earth is proclaimed by the Nicene Creed: “For us men and for our salvation, he came down from heaven…” And in the life of Jesus, this is exactly what Jerusalem stood for: our Salvation. Jerusalem was the place where prophets were killed. Jerusalem was where Jesus would be crucified and be offered as a sacrifice in atonement for our sins. This is why his life on earth was a journey, a resolute journey towards Jerusalem. The adverb used is “resolutely”…desididong desidido. His mind was made up. His will is sure. This is the reason why he was sent. This was the reason why he came. If he did not go up to Jerusalem, his incarnation would be rendered useless. (Sometimes, I go to the mall with the clear intent of buying an item but eventually I get distracted by other things and end up going home with some other items without the original intent of the mall trip. Then the trip becomes useless.) He simply had to go to do his Father’s will.

Not even the rejection by a Samaritan town dissuaded him from his purpose. Of course, James and John felt insulted for him. They even wanted to call down fire from heaven to consume them. But Jesus was not sent into the world to condemn the world. He was sent to save it. And so, he rebuked them. The fire and brimstone will come at the end of time. But for now, it will be a time of mercy. His journey to Jerusalem was a journey of mercy. He journeys to the Cross where he shall obtain mercy for all. On the Cross, he will not exclude the inhospitable Samaritan town from his prayer for mercy. He will not exclude anyone…not even his persecutors. He will open wide the gates of mercy and invite all to enter. In fact, he did not even wait to reach Jerusalem. As they journeyed, he invited people to follow him. Many of us limit this passage as an invitation to priestly and religious vocation. We miss the fact that the invitation to follow him is actually an invitation to accept grace and mercy. It is an invitation to holiness. (St. Jose Maria Escriva said that not all of us can become rich, wise, and famous. But all of us can become Saints. In fact, we do not even have to leave our work and enter the monastery to become holy. Even the most common tasks of everyday can be an instrument for sanctification.) It is an invitation to salvation. And none can be more important than what he has to offer. Worldly security cannot measure up to the of the Father’s love (foxes have lairs, birds of the sky of nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head). During a storm, foxes are afraid that their lairs will be flooded. During a hurricane, birds are afraid that their nests will fall to the ground. But even in the midst of a storm, Jesus is able to sleep tightly, to rest secure because he knows he rests in his Father’s embrace. No earthly relationship should even hinder us from a mission as great as the proclamation of the Kingdom of God (Let the dead bury their dead. But you, go and proclaim the Kingdom of God). Notice that once you have accepted the invitation to follow Jesus, you have found life. They who have rejected the invitation remain dead. So let the dead bury their dead. But you have found life. You have found joy. Share now to others what you have found. Give them a chance to possess what you now have. Proclaim the kingdom of God. Nothing can be deemed as more valuable than the Kingdom of God (No one who sets a hand to the plow and looks to what was left behind is fit for the Kingdom of God). I remember that story in Genesis when God set the burning of Sodom and Gomorrah with fire and brimstone. He sent angels to rescue Lot and his family from the impending doom. Lot’s family was told to flee as fast as they can to the next town and not to look back. But Lot’s wife looked back. Perhaps, she looked back at the property she left behind. Perhaps, she looked back at her friends and neighbors. She looked back and became a pillar of salt. As St. Ignatius said:

Eternal Word, only begotten Son of God,
Teach me true generosity. Teach me to serve you as you deserve. To give without counting the cost, To fight heedless of wounds, To labor without seeking rest, To sacrifice myself without thought of any reward Save the knowledge that I have done your will. Amen.”

Sr. Cecilia OCD of Argentina at the moment of death
Let us willingly accept Christ’s offer of grace and mercy. It is an offer given right now. (TV shopping networks advertise with a sense of urgency: Call now. If you buy now, we will add this item and another item more. But wait, there’s more… there’s a discount. The same is true with Jesus. He gives the offer right now.) Let us not delay our response. It is so good an offer that accepting it is its own reward. God himself, his love, is the reward which no one can offer us but Christ himself. “You will show me the path of life, fullness of joys in your presence, the delights at your right hand forever.” (Last night, over facebook was a picture of Sr. Cecilia of the Carmel of Santa Fe in Argentina. She suffered lung cancer, an extremely painful disease. But at the moment of her death, she had a very sweet smile on her face. In the photograph, she looks like a lover who has arrived to the encounter she has long been yearning for. This Carmelite nun shows us what we mean when we say: You will show me fullness of joys in your presence.) In Jesus is found fullness of joy. It is worth everything. We need not count the cost.

O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.