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Bible Reflections View Comments

We Preach the Gospel with Our Lives
By Diane M. Houdek
Source: Bringing Home the Word
Published: Sunday, May 12, 2013
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St. Paul tells the Ephesians, “May the eyes of your heart be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call.” It reminds me of the line from Antoine St. Exupery’s classic story The Little Prince: “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly. What is essential is invisible to the eye.”

It’s easy to talk about the things that Jesus said and did while he was here on earth. We understand his parables; we grasp the significance of the things he tells us about God the Father, about the kingdom of heaven; we marvel at his healing touch. But in this Easter season we wrestle with the transition from this earthly ministry to something that we can’t see and hear and touch. And it’s this very transition that makes our belief more than merely following a good man or a wise teacher.

It’s comforting to know that we’re not alone in this. After Jesus’s return to his Father, the apostles are still trying to see him with their earthly eyes, so much so that an angel asks them: “Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking up at the sky?” They have been sent to proclaim the Good News to the ends of the earth, but their hearts haven’t accepted that message yet. They’re still not quite sure that they can do what Jesus did.

Luke’s Gospel for the Ascension tells us that Jesus cautioned his followers to return to the city until they were “clothed with power from on high.” Throughout the Easter season, we find the apostles gathered in Jerusalem for prayer as a community to wait for the Holy Spirit Jesus promised to send. They know they’re on their own now, that the task is theirs, but they also know that they’re never truly alone. The Lord watches over us as we do his work in the world. We may not see him, but faith tells us he’s there.

Wisely, they follow the advice to spend time in prayer, to spend time with one another puzzling out the marvelous things they have experienced. They know what they’re up against. They know that they will need to go back to face the very people who executed Jesus. It’s no wonder they’re confused and even afraid. But they remember what Jesus said when he was with them. And they wait for the inspiration of the Spirit.

So it is with our call to go out and proclaim the Gospel message in our own day. We will always encounter those who doubt and who criticize us for our beliefs. A memorized presentation of facts and doctrines will do little to persuade most people. Like the first disciples, we need to let the spirit animate us. We need to let the words of Jesus sink so deeply into out hearts that our lives show forth their meaning.

The core of the message will always be the words and deeds of Jesus in the Gospel. But the real proof will lie in the way that our own actions show love for others and service to the little ones and the least ones. If we strive to do this consistently, people around us will begin to and wonder at what moves and inspires us. We can bring them along with us gradually, attentive to the Spirit working in them as well as in us.

The days between Ascension and Pentecost give us a marvelous opportunity to reflect on the work that we’ve been called to do, on the Spirit that empowers us for that work, and on the difference it can make in our world. We may be a bit cautious at first, but before long, we, like the apostles, will be going out with great joy to praise God.


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Maria Goretti: One of the largest crowds ever assembled for a canonization—250,000—symbolized the reaction of millions touched by the simple story of Maria Goretti. 
<p>She was the daughter of a poor Italian tenant farmer, had no chance to go to school, never learned to read or write. When she made her First Communion not long before her death at age 12, she was one of the larger and somewhat backward members of the class. </p><p>On a hot afternoon in July, Maria was sitting at the top of the stairs of her house, mending a shirt. She was not quite 12 years old, but physically mature. A cart stopped outside, and a neighbor, Alessandro, 18 years old, ran up the stairs. He seized her and pulled her into a bedroom. She struggled and tried to call for help. “No, God does not wish it," she cried out. "It is a sin. You would go to hell for it.” Alessandro began striking at her blindly with a long dagger. </p><p>She was taken to a hospital. Her last hours were marked by the usual simple compassion of the good—concern about where her mother would sleep, forgiveness of her murderer (she had been in fear of him, but did not say anything lest she cause trouble to his family) and her devout welcoming of Viaticum, her last Holy Communion. She died about 24 hours after the attack. </p><p>Her murderer was sentenced to 30 years in prison. For a long time he was unrepentant and surly. One night he had a dream or vision of Maria, gathering flowers and offering them to him. His life changed. When he was released after 27 years, his first act was to go to beg the forgiveness of Maria’s mother. </p><p>Devotion to the young martyr grew, miracles were worked, and in less than half a century she was canonized. At her beatification in 1947, her mother (then 82), two sisters and a brother appeared with Pope Pius XII on the balcony of St. Peter’s. Three years later, at her canonization, a 66-year-old Alessandro Serenelli knelt among the quarter-million people and cried tears of joy.</p> American Catholic Blog Lord, may the medals we wear be constant reminders of the lives they depict. While wearing them, may we be blessed through the saints’ intercession and protected from harm. Help us to continue to spread the messages of Jesus and Mary and the saints and angels.

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