We Are Consecrated to Evangelize
Sunday January 30, 2022
Third Week of Ordinary Time
by Fr. David M. Knight
Jeremiah 1:4-19 is pretty encouraging for us if we want to live up to our baptismal commitment as “prophets, priests and kings” (stewards of Christ’s kingship). God doesn’t say anything to Jeremiah in this passage that he is not saying to every one of us: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you.” We were actually consecrated to do the work of God when we received Baptism and Confirmation. We were “anointed” — physically, with chrism, on the top of the head — with the words, “As Christ was anointed Priest, Prophet and King, so live always as a member of his body.” The Church is the body of Christ. The Church “exists to evangelize” (Paul VI). Therefore each one of us exists to evangelize — as “prophets, priests and stewards of his kingship.” We are consecrated to this.
God told Jeremiah this, not to crush him with a burden, but to encourage him. Jeremiah was sent as a “prophet to the nations.” So are we. Jesus said to the whole Church: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). And when Jeremiah said, “Ah, Lord GOD! Truly I do not know how to speak,” God answered, “Do not be afraid… for I am with you…. Gird up your loins; stand up and tell them everything that I command you.” He says exactly the same thing to us.
Oddly but predictably, there are a lot of people who see the Good News as bad news. God told Jeremiah, “They will fight against you.” Jesus told us, “If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. Because you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world — therefore the world hates you” (John 15:19). But God added to Jeremiah: “They shall not prevail.”
Our answer to that is not just that we will “proclaim your holy name” (Entrance Antiphon), but that we will “Sing of your salvation” (Responsorial Psalm: 71: 1-17). If people don’t want to listen, we will put the message to music!
The wind shifts
In Luke 4:21-30 Jesus was first accepted, then rejected by the same people. And they were the people he grew up with.
When Jesus spoke in his home town, at first the people liked what he said. “All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth.”
But then the critics weighed in. They began to focus on who he was rather than on what he was saying. And they measured who he was by his family’s social standing. They said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” In Matthew (13:54) they say, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these deeds of power? Is he not the carpenter’s son?”
They also began to talk about the miracles he had worked. They fell into the pattern we see all during Jesus’ ministry: instead of listening to his teaching they wanted to see signs and wonders. They also preferred to have him do something for them — take away their pain — than let him call them to do something for God and other people. They tolerated his teaching as long as he was speaking “gracious words,” but when he got challenging they got hostile.
Things haven’t changed very much! Healers always attract greater crowds than teachers. And the preachers who attract the largest crowds are those who deliver a “feel good” message. This is characteristic of the “mega churches” and popular TV evangelists. The easiest way to get people to come to church is to tell them what they want to hear.
The true prophets don’t do that. God told Jeremiah, and Jesus told those he “sent out” (apostles) that the “world” would hate and oppose them. But let’s be honest: the evangelists start the fight by preaching against the distortions and destructiveness of the culture. We often explain the Good News by showing how it differs from the bad news people are immersed in. There is nothing wrong with that so long as we give equal time to what is so good about the Good News. And that is always going to take us into mystery! The Good News is as deeply different from good human advice as the bad news of the “world” is deeply different from the obvious “immorality” it is so easy to preach against. Jesus, if taken seriously, is closer to a revolutionary than to a moralizer.
How to grow up
The context of Paul’s famous “hymn to love” in 1Corinthians 12:31 to 13:13 is often not noticed. He is preaching love, yes, but in a context of growing into Christian maturity. The clue words are, “When I was a child, I used to talk and think like a child. But when I became an adult, I put childish ways aside.”
Paul is writing to the Christian community in Corinth. They were a charismatic Church. They all sat together and belted out the hymns at Mass with the enthusiasm of conscious believers. They spoke in tongues, stood up in the assembly and “prophesied” by saying whatever they thought God was inspiring them to say. They shared their knowledge of the faith and instructed one another. What God said to Jeremiah was not lost on them: “Do not be afraid…stand up and tell them everything that I command you.”
And Paul said this was good, very good: “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good: wisdom… knowledge… faith… gifts of healing… miracles… prophecy… discernment of spirits… tongues… the interpretation of tongues. All these are activated by one and the same Spirit.”
But some became more focused on feeling good and experiencing enthusiasm than on “building up the Church.” This, Paul says (six times! 14:3,4,5,12,17,26) is what love is: “building up the Church,” helping others to grow in faith, hope, love and life. Mature love seeks to give life. If we are just in church to get “turned on,” we are not yet mature Christians. Paul says, “Pursue love…. Let all that you do be done in love.(1Corinthians 14:1;16:14 and re-read the Opening Prayers).
Can we truly love others without sharing with them the Good News?
Initiative: Evangelize. See how you can make Good News out of all you say and do.
Reflections brought to you by the Immersed in Christ Ministry