Christ and the Gospel
The joyous season of Easter is among us. Another Lent has passed and we can now celebrate with the entire Church and the world that Christ is alive today. With Spring in our midst and the plants and flowers beginning to bud, it’s a true connection to new life. It is within our grasp in the physical world and the nudging we feel in our hearts to believe more fully that God is alive. Christ has risen from the dead! He is in our hearts, he is everywhere. He is in the heart of the most Holy Eucharist in every tabernacle and present at every Mass throughout the world now and always. We are blessed.
This is the time of the year that hopefully is a continuation of the good fruits produced during of our Lenten observances of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. At the beginning of our current liturgical year, the Holy Father proclaimed “The Year of Mercy”, which is a celebration of the mercy of Jesus Christ to all people. It is a reminder to all of us that the proclamation of the Gospel is for the entire world. What does it mean to “proclaim the Gospel”? Is it meant only for “religious” people such clergy or individuals who have careers within the Church? Not at all. It is a mission for all who believe in Christ and in his Church. Pope Francis quoted the following in 2013 on the subject:
Spreading the Gospel means that we are the first to proclaim and live the reconciliation, forgiveness, peace, unity and love which the Holy Spirit gives us. Let us remember Jesus words:’By this all men will know that you are my disciples if you have love for one another’. (John 13:35)
General Audience, St. Peter’s Square, May 22, 2013
This short quote is full of wisdom. It all begins with the Holy Spirit which we, as his followers and through the Sacraments of Initiation, have been given this awesome gift. It is a supernatural gift which we can call on at any time to guide us through virtue of our Baptism and of Confirmation in the Holy Spirit. This gift is a flame within our souls that we can nurture through prayer and through the virtue of our lives. We handle ourselves with care in receiving this gift as not to extinguish the flame in our souls. Thank the Lord that we can go to him when we fail so we can receive his forgiveness through the gift of Sacrament of Reconciliation. It is such a grace to receive his forgiveness and be restored in faith when we humble ourselves to admit our faults and sins.
Pondering Closely Our Mission with Christ
In my own reflection in being involved with Church ministry, I have noticed something that I believe needs attention in regard to spreading the word to others about the faith. I am referring to the methods we employ to introduce others to the faith and conversion. We have a great gift to give to others, and we wish to tell them about this gift. So, we begin to view it as something that must be “done” or “accomplished” instead of becoming loving individuals ourselves through God. For those who are involved in ministry, we may attend workshops, meetings, read articles and books, pray many hours and wish to bring others to the love of Christ through these methods. We begin to look at “evangelization” as a problem to be solved where we start at “Point A and proceed to Point B” through our tactics. Some of our methods, especially prayer, are very good and effective. However, if we follow after our Lord, we will discover that the best way to evangelize will come in a different way than we may have expected. I am referring to following the promptings of the Holy Spirit and giving ourselves in love to others in ways that show them the love of God.
As Pope Francis stated, we are to “first proclaim and live the reconciliation, forgiveness, peace, unity and love which the Holy Spirit gives us”. Let’s reflect a bit about each. Every one of these aspects of God must come from the Holy Spirit, not from ourselves. When it comes from the Spirit and not from our own mindsets, we can be sure that God is at work. I believe that these particular areas of faith will be the most effective way to show others the face of Christ.
Reconciliation. Reconciliation means being reconciled to God and reconciled to others as much as may be possible. It is not always humanly possible for many reasons to reconcile with a person we have had issues or suffered some kind of hurt or unforgiveness. However, we are called to be people who can move beyond our own pain and reach out to those who are hardest to love. This does not mean we have to have a relationship or a friendship with these individuals. However, we are called to be people of forgiveness and of tying up the bonds that were once broken in the ways that God may be calling us to do for his sake.
Forgiveness. This is probably the toughest one for many of us, myself included. We all have situations and past experiences that are very painful and quite hard to move on from. However, there is a saying that not forgiving is actually worse for the person who will not forgive. It is like ingesting a bottle of poison but expecting the other person to die. Jesus forgave, and it was the greatest act he ever did aside from actually dying for our sins and saving us so that we can be with him and his Father for all eternity in Heaven. Through the grace of God forgiveness is possible.
Peace. This is what we all want and wish for. We all wish for peace and along with peace, joy. How do we find peace? I believe that through the Holy Spirit and though prayerful lives and in following our Lord, peace is found in the simple ways of our daily existence. Many times we search hard to find peace, and I have even found myself in that situation. But, in the end it is only found through living in the present moment, happily, as much as is possible, with God and others.
Unity. Unity is what Christ prayed for. He prayed that we may be one with him. Unity also means to live peacefully with others in our families, small community and the world. Yes, there is violence in our world and people die for their faith and for other reasons we may not know. And this is a tragedy beyond our understanding. However, unity does not mean that everyone has to be exactly like us since God’s creation is very diverse. We must always pray for the unity that Christ has called for with our brothers and sisters, but in a non-forceful way. Unity will only be achieved through Christ and in his peace.
Love. The best is for last. Yes. It is all about love, but the love of God through our Lord Jesus Christ which is a self-giving and sacrificial love. For as it states in Holy Scripture:
“And if I have the gift of prophesy and I comprehend all knowledge; if I have faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing.” -I Corinthians 13:2.
We can have great faith and even have claimed to do many good things in our lives and have done everything for God, however if we do not love, unfortunately we have failed our greatest test. My own experiences have revealed to me that this is the area that needs the most work in our world. Loving others as God loves us, unconditionally. This is our greatest calling with God.
There is a lot to reflect upon in all of this. And the present time is the perfect time to think about “proclaiming the Gospel”. As our Blessed Mother did during her time on earth, we can ponder the love of Christ in our hearts. Life’s problems and battles will not be accomplished through power, intelligence or our own wills. With God by our side, we can make the most of every moment we live. God loves us all. And he loves each one of us infinitely. Let’s make the most of the time we have here. And please, pray for me too. I will be praying for you.