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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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Ansgar: The “apostle of the north” (Scandinavia) had enough frustrations to become a saint—and he did. He became a Benedictine at Corbie, France, where he had been educated. Three years later, when the king of Denmark became a convert, Ansgar went to that country for three years of missionary work, without noticeable success. Sweden asked for Christian missionaries, and he went there, suffering capture by pirates and other hardships on the way. Fewer than two years later, he was recalled, to become abbot of New Corbie (Corvey) and bishop of Hamburg. The pope made him legate for the Scandinavian missions. Funds for the northern apostolate stopped with Emperor Louis’s death. After 13 years’ work in Hamburg, Ansgar saw it burned to the ground by invading Northmen; Sweden and Denmark returned to paganism. 
<p>He directed new apostolic activities in the North, traveling to Denmark and being instrumental in the conversion of another king. By the strange device of casting lots, the king of Sweden allowed the Christian missionaries to return. </p><p>Ansgar’s biographers remark that he was an extraordinary preacher, a humble and ascetical priest. He was devoted to the poor and the sick, imitating the Lord in washing their feet and waiting on them at table. He died peacefully at Bremen, Germany, without achieving his wish to be a martyr. </p><p>Sweden became pagan again after his death, and remained so until the coming of missionaries two centuries later.</p> American Catholic Blog Every vocation is a vocation to sacrifice and to joy. It is a call to the knowledge of God, to the recognition of God as our Father, to joy in the understanding of His mercy.

 
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