“Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Good News to all creation.” The command to spread the Good news is the obligation for all Christians. If we do not evangelize, it means that we have not been faithful to the command of the Lord. Evangelization is not an option but a duty, an obligation, or rather, a privilege arising from the Good News that we have received freely from the Lord. Because we have received the Good News freely, we must now give away freely.
What is this Good News if not the love and mercy of God as manifested in the Paschal Mystery, the passion, death and resurrection of our Lord? Through His life, Jesus, who was a man for others, demonstrated the mercy and compassion of God. He accepted sinners by eating and drinking with them. He helped the sick, healed them and spoke up for the marginalized. He died for sinners and showed what it means to love and forgive our enemies. Most of all, He was raised from the dead by the Father, showing that He is truly His Son and the Messiah. With His resurrection and ascension, He has also sent us the same Spirit He received, thereby making us the adopted sons and daughters of God. Indeed, how great is the mercy of God and His generosity in making us His children and giving us His Spirit at our baptism.
Since we have received the Good news free, we now must extend this to others. Freely received, freely given! All can spread the Good News regardless of age and resources. We read, “And so the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up to heaven: there at the right hand of God he took his place, while they, going out, preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word by the signs that accompanied it.” It is the Lord who works in and through us. The work of spreading the gospel is not our efforts alone. Rather, it is the work of the Holy Spirit working through love in our hearts. He will supply us the grace and the means to do His work. What is important is that we are docile and available, not blocking His grace and His love.
How to spread the Good news? The Good News is more than words. It is about a person, Jesus the Christ. Jesus makes the Good News concrete by His words and actions. For this reason, to spread the gospel, we need the signs that those who do not have faith in Jesus can recognize. The evangelist said, “These are the signs that will be associated with believers: in my name they will cast out devils; they will have the gift of tongues; they will pick up snakes in their hands, and be unharmed should they drink deadly poison; they will lay their hands on the sick, who will recover.”
These signs would of course include the works of charity and compassion. The proclamation of the gospel need not be always direct or spectacular and miraculous. Often it comes in the most ordinary way when we show acts of love and kindness, especially by helping the poor, attending to those who are sick, praying and interceding for those in need and listening to those who are very much wounded.
But beyond works of compassion, the greatest gift we can give is the gift of faith. Proclaiming the Good News that falls short of giving the faith is to shortchange our recipients. This is because we fight shy of sharing the source of all our gifts. The fear of being accused of proselytizing or offending them often prevents us from sharing the faith explicitly. Of course, more often than not, it is because it is not our Catholic culture to openly share their our faith with others without invitation. We are over sensitive of the privacy of others and afraid to encroach into their private space.
Yet, are we not lacking charity by not sharing Christ with them? We give all kinds of gifts to people but why is it wrong to let them know where we find the gifts and who is the one empowering us? Jesus said, “He who believes and is baptised is saved; he who does not believe will be condemned.”
Why is the gift of Faith the greatest of all gifts? This is because with the gift of faith, they have everything. Faith in Jesus is what saves us ultimately, not just the soul but the way to live life to the fullest because Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Happiness in life is more than what we own or possess but who we are. It is how we live our lives, our attitude towards suffering, material possessions, and people. It is concerned with living a meaningful and purposeful life of love and service. Whether we are rich or poor, there is no excuse for not being messengers of love to others.
They will never live in anxiety but trust in the Lord. As St Peter wrote, “Bow down, then, before the power of God now, and he will raise you up on the appointed day; unload all your worries on to him, since he is looking after you.” With Christ on our side, we can cope with suffering because we find inspiration from Him. St Peter told the Christians, “Stand up to him, strong in faith and in the knowledge that your brothers all over the world are suffering the same things. You will have to suffer only for a little while: The God of all grace who called you to eternal glory in Christ will see that all is well again: he will confirm, strengthen and support you. His power lasts for ever and ever. Amen.” We no longer suffer in vain but for the love of God and the good others. Suffering is no longer mere suffering but redemptive suffering.
They will be taught how to live a life of contentment. The truth is that no one can satisfy our greed but only our need. How poor you are is dependent on how much you need. If you need more to be happy, then you are poorer to that extent. Those of us who need little live very contented lives because we do not hanker for more. We are happy with little or with more because our happiness is not dependent on what we have but being grateful for whatever we have. As the psalmist says, “Happy the people who acclaim such a king, who walk, O Lord, in the light of your face, who find their joy every day in your name, who make your justice the source of their bliss.”
Indeed, they will become people of praise and thanksgiving. “I will sing for ever of your love, O Lord; through all ages my mouth will proclaim your truth. Of this I am sure, that your love lasts for ever; that your truth is firmly established as the heavens. The heavens proclaim your wonders, O Lord; the assembly of your holy ones proclaims your truth. For who in the skies can compare with the Lord or who is like the Lord among the sons of God?” People who are grateful will also become generous in giving to others what they have received. Grateful people are always happy people.
Most of all, in Christ, they recover their dignity as the Children of God. We give and serve others because we are all brothers and sisters. Every human person is recognized and given due respect for their dignity. That explains why in serving them, we do not simply dish out material things when helping the poor and the needy but we must help those who are disadvantaged to be self-sufficient. Our task is to help them to become independent so in turn they become servants and instruments to others.
So as St Peter urges us, “Be calm but vigilant, because your enemy the devil is prowling round like a roaring lion, looking for someone to eat.” We need to be vigilant in giving or receiving and not allow let pride or selfishness to destroy us. We must ensure that whether as helpers or as recipients of help, together we must grow in love and service, in generosity. We know that our works of charity have served its purpose when all of us, regardless of whether we are givers or receivers, come to know and love Christ, discover our love in Him; and in turn through the works of charity become more like Christ in extending the blessings we have to others. God blesses us never for ourselves but in order that we may bless others with what we have received.