Did you catch that last line of the Gospel reading for today’s Mass*?
Woe to you when all speak well of you,
for that is what their ancestors did to the false prophets.
That is one scary verse from the Gospel of Luke!
Here’s the thing, I’m fairly certain that I’m not alone in wanting people to speak well of me and mine. It is a concern that niggles away in my mind and heart and generally draws my attention out of focus. Whereas, the focal point of the Christian life is Jesus Christ. Put anything else at the center, and it simply does not hang together. If, however, we take Saint Paul’s letter to the Colossians seriously, that our “life is hidden in Christ Jesus” (Colossians 3), then from this center—the heart of Jesus Christ—we learn the values and practices of the kingdom of God.
A Church that witnesses to the joy of the Gospel is a church that is poor as Jesus is poor, that hungers as Jesus hungers, that mourns as Jesus mourns, and that [gulp!] is persecuted as Jesus is persecuted. In short, we’re talking about a church which values people over status as the world understands status. Each of us—and all of us together—are called to be servants of the Gospel of God, the good news that in Christ our life is secure, and that all are welcome into the kingdom of God.
Evangelization is a multi-faceted ministry within the Church. At heart, however, I believe that it springs from an ongoing relationship with God. Evangelization happens when people respond to God’s gracious invitation to become disciples and their words and actions begin to draw the others around them into conversation about God—and better yet, into conversation with God. “Woe to you when all speak well of you” can sound counter-intuitive to one who lives so as to let their light shine before others (see Matthew 5), and yet it is a healthy reminder that our primary conversation partner is God. In the words of Blessed James Alberione, the founder of the Pauline Family, “But when are we apostles? When we live of Jesus Christ; when we can say: ‘Christ really lives in me.’ It is then that Jesus Christ shines in us through our words when we preach, in our lives through our example, in our prayer through supplication, and in our deeds through editions” (Alberione, 1960).
Respond to God’s invitation given to us in Christ Jesus and become a living Gospel. Sometimes the world will take offense. It is what it is. And yet, sometimes the world will be drawn into this grand conversation started by God.
* Wednesday of the twenty-third week in Ordinary Time
Mass Readings: Col 3:1-11; Ps 145:2-3, 10-11, 12-13b; Lk 6:20-26