John E. Deegan, O.S.A.
Director of Justice and Peace
Province of Saint Thomas of Villanova
Ps 117:1, 2
Heb 12:5-7, 11-13
Building up the people of God and forming community are important tasks that face the Church in the 21st century. Many times we dismiss these tasks as we see them as the job of the ordained minister or religious. But we all are sent to preach the good news. It is not only an opportunity but a responsibility.
To whom are we to preach the good news? In the readings from Hebrews and Luke it is quite clear that God offers his salvific grace to all. Our community of faith is one that is all-inclusive. God’s grace goes out to those that we might distrust or even despise. It is important that we not become self-righteous and judge others as unworthy of this saving grace. We need to remember that salvation comes from God. It is a free gift of God and it is not our task to determine who shall be saved but rather to rejoice in the generosity of God.
In building up God’s community, our role is essential. We are called to be a “light upon he hill” shining on those who are in darkness and confusion. We are called to be “yeast for the dough” serving as a leaven so that faith communities may rise up where there was only doubt and fear.
This seems like a task that is beyond us. We are not fit or worthy of this sacred task that God would have us do. And yet we know that God would not ask us to do the impossible. How then do we preach the good news?
The reading from Hebrews in today’s liturgy gives us some hint as to how we can preach. Paul tells us that discipline is important in our lives as a key for our responsibility as a preacher. All Christians are called through Baptism to a life in Christ. We are called to witness to Christ-likeness in every thing that we do. In other words, we are to preach in the way we live our lives and how we relate to one another. In our family relationships, do we treat all with Christ-like love and respect? In our work setting, are we accepting of the other and supportive and honest in our dealings? Do we show compassion, patience and understanding to those who do not always live up to our standards. Are we forgiving of others as we would want to be forgiven? Do we encourage one another in our common efforts to be faithful to the commandment of love?
The old saying that one can tell that a group or individual is Christian by their love is very much the challenge given to us in today’s scripture readings. As we look around our world today the love preached by Christ is hard to find. Man’s inhumanity to man is evident everywhere. War, genocide, starvation and disease are all about us. We only need to look in our own neighborhoods to see poverty, hunger, homelessness and despair. Many look to us Christians to shed some light on these dire situations. They are thirsting to hear the message of love and forgiveness. They cry out for compassion, understanding and mercy. They want to see Christ in us not only in our works of charity but, more importantly, in our working to bring about systemic change which will lead to justice.
We are all called to be preachers of the good news. God wants all to be saved and we have a responsibility to lead Christ-like lives which will build up the body of Christ which is the Church. The question we need to ask ourselves today is: Are we willing to put Christ and his message of love at the center of our lives? Will we be that light on the hill which diffuses the darkness and points the way to truth and love?
In our world today, the need to be Christ-like is great; God’s grace is boundless; the decision is ours.