OF THE READINGS Witnessing to the faith will involve persecution
of one sort or another (First Reading, Second Reading). But
that is where our real joy lies: living as true
disciples of Christ (Psalm). Even if the world does violence
against us, we ultimately enjoy God´s protection (Gospel).
DOCTRINAL MESSAGE Christ´s Church was destined to take
in the whole world. The Kingdom that sunk roots among
the Israelites was destined to envelop all mankind. Christianity is
not an exclusive religion, closed to certain classes or ethnic
groups. It can penetrate, transform, and purify any culture. But
some of the Jews did not expect this (First Reading).
Conditioned, perhaps, as they were by a culture that fought
its way into the promised land (see Judges), and accustomed
to occasional exile among the alien peoples, they anticipated a
Messiah who would expel the Romans and crush hostile enemies.
The idea that the real Messiah would love everyone, including
the Gentiles, boggled their minds. Certainly that idea thrilled the
Gentiles. Indeed, many "from every nation" (Second Reading) would persevere
in their faith in Christ.
worst enemies can be its own members. Out of ignorance
or malice the professed followers of God can harbor jealousy
(First Reading) and actually impede others from entering ("You traverse
sea and land to make one convert, and when that
happens you make him a child of Gehenna twice as
much as yourselves" - Matthew 23:15). Such ignorance, or malice,
might be born of a personal prejudice about the way
we expect God to behave. Mercilessness in the name of
justice wasn´t unknown in the Gospel - witness James and
John´s question when the Samaritan village refused to welcome Jesus:
"Lord, do you want us to call down fire from
heaven to consume them?" (Luke 9:54). Peter himself wasn´t above
this. "Peter wanted as Messiah a ´divine man,´ who fulfilled
people´s expectations, imposing his force upon everyone" (Benedict XVI, General
Audience Address, May 17, 2006).
God means living at his pace. Patient endurance in the
day-to-day trials pleases God. Such patience will be rewarded at
the Judgment when he wipes away every tear (Second Reading).
What gives us assurance, as best can
be achieved in this world, is the faithful listening to
the voice of Christ, the Good Shepherd. This listening doesn´t
remain passive; it moves us to follow Jesus in concrete
ways (Gospel). What was the cause behind Israel´s endless cycle
of exile and trouble? Its people didn´t listen to God.
In our day, discerning the voice of Christ requires attentiveness
to what the Pope, and bishops in communion with him,
teach. Therein lays our assurance that the Father watches over
Catechesis: The Church, in obedience to
the command of her founder and because it is demanded
by her own essential universality, strives to preach the Gospel
to all men (CCC 849). The Catechism of the Catholic
Church, which should be used regularly, is an indispensable resource
for helping adults become stronger in their relationship with God,
and to grow in their knowledge of the faith. (Our
Hearts Were Burning Within Us: A Pastoral Plan for Adult
Faith Formation in the United States, No. 31).
PASTORAL APPLICATIONS Welcome mat. Recognizing that Christ´s
redemption aims to save all humanity, and that all people
are our brothers, how do we welcome people of other
cultures? Do we see them as intruders in the parish?
In our country? "I was … a stranger and you
welcomed me," Jesus says in Matthew 25:35.
Ongoing formation. A Catholic who neglects ongoing formation remains a
weak believer. We would shy from a middle-aged physician who
hasn´t read a professional journal since medical school. Why would
an adult Catholic be content with CCD-level catechesis? To fill
the gap in formation, a personal reading program can help.
A year spent reading the Catechism of the Catholic Church,
or the Compendium of the Social Teaching of the Church,
could restore our grip of the major tenets of the
faith. Solid Catholic publications can update us on current topics
such as bioethics and applications of the Church´s social teaching.
Collaboration. Frustration with the world´s problems should
not paralyze us. We might wish that God simply fixed
the mess around us. But he usually prefers to work
through human efforts. Before Jesus fed the 5,000, he waited
for someone to offer him five barley loaves and two
fish (cf. John 6:9ff). Likewise he waits for us to
offer something. Far be it from Christians to bemoan the
state of the world _ and to do little else.
Christ needs our hands in order to do his work;
he needs our speech to bring his words of comfort;
he needs our legs to carry his Gospel message abroad.
There is a good rule to live by, which states:
for every one problem we see, we should think of
three solutions. How different the world would be if every
Christian did that.