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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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John Paul II: “Open wide the doors to Christ,” urged John Paul II during the homily at the Mass when he was installed as pope in 1978. <br /><br />Born in Wadowice, Poland, Karol Jozef Wojtyla had lost his mother, father and older brother before his 21st birthday. Karol’s promising academic career at Krakow’s Jagiellonian University was cut short by the outbreak of World War II. While working in a quarry and a chemical factory, he enrolled in an “underground” seminary in Kraków. Ordained in 1946, he was immediately sent to Rome where he earned a doctorate in theology. <br /><br />Back in Poland, a short assignment as assistant pastor in a rural parish preceded his very fruitful chaplaincy for university students. Soon he earned a doctorate in philosophy and began teaching that subject at Poland’s University of Lublin. <br /><br />Communist officials allowed him to be appointed auxiliary bishop of Kraków in 1958, considering him a relatively harmless intellectual. They could not have been more wrong! <br /><br />He attended all four sessions of Vatican II and contributed especially to its <em>Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World</em>. Appointed as archbishop of Kraków in 1964, he was named a cardinal three years later. <br /><br />Elected pope in October 1978, he took the name of his short-lived, immediate predecessor. Pope John Paul II was the first non-Italian pope in 455 years. In time, he made pastoral visits to 124 countries, including several with small Christian populations. <br /><br />He promoted ecumenical and interfaith initiatives, especially the 1986 Day of Prayer for World Peace in Assisi. He visited Rome’s Main Synagogue and the Western Wall in Jerusalem; he also established diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Israel. He improved Catholic-Muslim relations and in 2001 visited a mosque in Damascus, Syria. <br /><br />The Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, a key event in John Paul’s ministry, was marked by special celebrations in Rome and elsewhere for Catholics and other Christians. Relations with the Orthodox Churches improved considerably during his ministry as pope. <br /><br />“Christ is the center of the universe and of human history” was the opening line of his 1979 encyclical, <em>Redeemer of the Human Race</em>. In 1995, he described himself to the United Nations General Assembly as “a witness to hope.” <br /><br />His 1979 visit to Poland encouraged the growth of the Solidarity movement there and the collapse of communism in central and eastern Europe 10 years later. He began World Youth Day and traveled to several countries for those celebrations. He very much wanted to visit China and the Soviet Union but the governments in those countries prevented that. <br /><br />One of the most well-remembered photos of his pontificate was his one-on-one conversation in 1983 with Mehmet Ali Agca, who had attempted to assassinate him two years earlier. <br /><br />In his 27 years of papal ministry, John Paul II wrote 14 encyclicals and five books, canonized 482 saints and beatified 1,338 people. <br /><br />In the last years of his life, he suffered from Parkinson’s disease and was forced to cut back on some of his activities. <br /><br />Pope Benedict XVI beatified John Paul II in 2011, and Pope Francis canonized him in 2014. American Catholic Blog Lord, may I have balance and measure in everything—except in Love. —St. Josemaría Escrivá

 
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