“Hey, it’s my turn to sit in the front pew!”
“I was so enthralled; I never noticed your homily went over 25 minutes.”
“I decided to give our parish the $500 a month I used to send to the TV evangelist.”
“I volunteer to be a permanent catechist.”
“I love it when we sing hymns I never heard before.”
“Nothing inspires me and strengthens my commitment like our Annual Catholic Appeal!”
On a serious note, we don’t hear it ever said, “I am very excited to be an evangelizer!” And yet this is the message of today’s Gospel:“…the Lord appointed 72 others whom he sent ahead of him in pairs to every town and place he intended to visit.” Scripture scholars tell us that seventy was symbolic of the number of the pagan nations known in the Bible. The Lord thought them prepared to evangelize. We might say they were his “advance teams.” Our Lord’s directives to the 70 are also meant for us. We are on his advance team.
He explains what we are to be and what we should say. “Go on your way,” the Lord says, “…behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves. Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals, and greet no one along the way.” This reminds that we evangelize through our meekness and detachment.
We often think of meekness as weakness but Jesus said, “Learn from me for I am meek and humble of heart and he told us that the meek would “inherit the earth.” So meekness is a virtue.
Meekness inclines us toward patience and helps us moderate our passions and anger. It keeps us from responding to wrongs with harsh and wounding words. Meekness also keeps us from being headstrong or even arrogant. A meek person says, “I don’t know everything. Things don’t always have to go my way. I have much to learn.” Meekness attracts harshness, arrogance detracts.
An evangelizer must also be detached ; “…without purse, no sack.” Attachment to money and material comforts always pose a danger for the disciple. Our Lord is urging us to “travel light” because possessions can become our obsessions. They weigh us down and can obscure our vision of God and of others. St. Gregory the Great advised, “Be not anxious about what you have but about what you are.”
Finally, the Lord also directs us what to say: “Peace to this household.” An evangelizer cultivates peace. Our task is to destroy enmity and not the enemy. Our approach to others should always be that of understanding, patience, and acceptance.
We are also to say, “The Kingdom of God is at hand.” Perhaps people would be put off if we expressed it in just that way. This means, “God is our creator and he has entered our world in the person of Christ who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Our task is to keep the light of faith bright in an every darkening secular world, where there are so many forces at work to turn our world into a “Faith-free Zone.”
We lament the diminishing attendance at Mass throughout the diocese, but we bear some responsibility to help reverse the trend and take seriously Christ’s invitation to evangelize. Be courageous enough to speak of God and the Faith. Faith is always personal but not private…invite others to come to Mass.
Our Bishop is asking us to consider “Faith in Our Future.” Much of it will depend on whether or not we become evangelizers…messengers sent into a different and challenging culture who are meek, detached, cultivators of peace and unafraid to speak of God.