Preaching the Good News in Word, Power, and Confidence!
Readings: 1st: Ish 45, 1. 4-6; Ps 95, 3-5. 7-10 2nd: I Thes 1, 1-5; Gos: Mtt 22, 15-21
This brief reflection was written by Rev. Fr. Njoku Canice Chukwuemeka, C.S.Sp. He is a Catholic Priest and a Member of the Congregation of the Holy Ghost Fathers and Brothers (Spiritans). He is currently working at the Sanctuario del Espiritu Santo, en Dorado, Puerto Rico, del Internacional Grupo Espiritano De Puerto Rico – Republica Dominicana. For more details and comments contact him on: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com.
“…And how can they believe if they have not heard the message? And how can they hear if the message is not proclaimed? And how can the message be proclaimed if the messengers are not sent out? …How wonderful is the coming of messengers who bring good news!” But not all have accepted the Good News…” (Romans 10:14-16). With these beautifully crafted master pieces from Paul the missionary par excellentiam, we begin our brief reflection on this 29th Sunday of ordinary time being World Mission Sunday.
On this great day, the church, while rejoicing at the progress made so far, yet reminds us that much still needs to be done because as Paul says, “Not all have accepted the gospel.” This simply means that it is not over until it is over because the clarion call for us to “come over to Macedonia” with the light of the good news is still ringing. Just before a brief excursus into the readings of today, it is important to hear from the Holy Father, Pope Francis. His message is quite simple, and in line with the clarion call. “Today vast numbers of people still do not know Jesus Christ. For this reason, the mission ad gentes continues to be most urgent. All the members of the Church are called to participate in this mission, for the Church is missionary by her very nature: she was born ‘to go forth’. World Mission Day is a privileged moment when the faithful of various continents engage in prayer and concrete gestures of solidarity in support of the young Churches in mission lands. It is a celebration of grace and joy. It is a celebration of grace, because the Holy Spirit, sent by the Father, offers wisdom and strength to those who are obedient to his action. A celebration of joy, because Jesus Christ, the Father’s Son, sent to evangelize the world, supports and accompanies our missionary efforts.” (From the Vatican, 8 June 2014, the Solemnity of Pentecost).
In the first reading of this Sunday God makes clear his choice of Israel. In a most surprising way too, he makes known his choice of a foreign king whom Isaiah referred to as “his anointed” instrument. His choice of this “Pagan king” as his anointed was for a purpose, to make known his name among other nations and for the sake of Israel. Therefore, like both Cyrus and Israel, God has chosen and “armed” us with the good news: “that men may know from the rising to the setting of the sun that, apart from me, all is nothing.” This is a call to all of us God’s people to go and make him known to the ends of the earth, from Cairo to Cape Town, from Dan to Beersheba, from North to South, and from East to West.
In the second reading of today, Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy continues to remember and pray now for the church of Thessalonica. They have preached the good news there, but they know that only prayer can sustain their labour. They know the importance of prayer in mission and so we must equally learn to pray for missionaries as the Holy Father reminds us today. This is very necessary because as Paul wrote: “We only sow the seed, but God makes it germinate, grow, and bear fruits” (1Cor 3, 6) through our constant prayers. As it is obvious that not everyone must go on foreign mission, it is however important that we all must play the very significant role played by St. Theresa of the Child Jesus. She never went on mission, but today she is the patron saint of missionaries because, she was fervent in her prayers for the success of missionaries and their work. Of course, God did hear and answer her prayers. Paul realizing the importance of prayers for the success of missionary work requested thus: “Pray also for me that I may speak boldly and make known the gospel secret…pray that I may be bold in speaking about the gospel as I should.” (Eph 6, 19-20). This is very important because, a missionary without any prayer backup will not succeed.
Again, Paul recalled how they carried out their mission. Hence, they give us a clue of how we ought to approach our missionary activities. They did it, “in words, in power, in the Holy Spirit and of course, in confidence”. They did it in words because, someone must be the medium and this is why Paul asked: “And how can they hear if the message is not proclaimed? Therefore, we must proclaim the good news in and out of season; in power, because: “…The word of God is alive and active. It is sharper than any two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow” (Heb 12, 4). The word of God possesses the power greater than the atomic bomb that decimated and punctuated Hiroshima and Nagasaki, its energy is stronger than that of the strongest hurricane and tornado put together; in Holy Spirit because, he is the principal agent of mission. he is the one who leads and directs us wherever we go: “The Holy Spirit did not let him (Paul) preach the message in the province of Asia…they tried to go into the province of Bithynia, but the spirit of Jesus did not allow them.”(Acts 16, 6-10). In spite of this, the same Holy Spirit allowed them to go to Macedonia. The missionary must therefore be a partner of the Holy Spirit. Finally, in confidence, because, the message we bear and preach has the label “tested and trusted.” It is something we have accepted, and believed. It is a life line, as well as an elixir of life with 100% guaranteed potency. So, we are proud to give it to others confidently. This is the source of our joy and confidence.
In the today’s gospel having preached the good news in word, power, Holy Spirit, conviction and confidence, the Pharisees were looking for ways to rubbish Jesus’ message, and even to distract and discredit him. This gospel presents one very important fact and reality that a missionary might face and contented with. In as much as we bring and preach the good news, detractors and difficulties abound. In short, countless efforts would be made to negate or contradict the good news; threats to both the good news, our physical and spiritual life are also imminent. However, the fact remains that the Holy Spirit the principal agent of mission and Jesus whose good news we bear will not allow us to be put to shame because they have jointly promised us thus: “…not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict. … Stand firm, and you will win life.”(Luke 21, 14-16). It is important to note that as a missionary we must be wiser than the “sons of this world.” We must also be vast in wisdom, knowledge and understanding of the spiritual, physical, political, cultural, economic and social situations around us. Had Christ been completely ignorant of the politics of his time (between the Romans and Jews), and of course the rule of government, am sure he would have been taken in by the tricks of the Pharisees. He was able to distinguish between theocracy and monarchy, between democracy and autocracy. It is also very important to note here that the state, or government, and God are not opposed to each other. As members of the state, we must fulfill our obligation to it, by paying our taxes for the good of the state, while at the same time not compromising our allegiance to God the owner and creator of all things including the state.
Finally, brethren I will like to close this homily by reminding us that the joy of being a missionary does not actually come from how much material gifts one receives, but from how much lives he is able to touch, how much joy he able to bring to others and how much love he is able to communicate. I humbly beg of you all my dear brethren and readers in these same words of St. Paul, please: “Pray also for me that I may speak boldly and make known the gospel secret…pray that I may be bold in speaking about the gospel as I should.”
Peace be with you all!!