FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL
OUR THEME FOR 2013
TURNING LIVES AROUND
October 9, 2012
Today’s reading: Galatians 1:13-24
As disciples of Jesus we are called to be evangelizers. The work of evangelization then results in more disciples of Jesus. Evangelization is the work of proclaiming the faith, and that faith, when it takes root, will work wonders. We just need to BE.LI.EV.E.
Take the case of Paul.
Meeting Christ turns people around, 180 degrees. It results in radical transformation. An enemy of God becomes His friend. A persecutor becomes a defender. “For you heard of my former way of life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it” (Gal 1:13). Those who destroy now build up. Those who scatter now gather. There is hope for even the greatest sinner, the biggest enemy of the Church, the staunchest promoter of the culture of death.
When we look at someone who is a sinner or far from Christ and his Church, we must see a child of God who is lost, but who is created in God’s image and likeness, whom Jesus died for, whom the Father desires to live forever with Him in heaven. God calls them, but uses us to manifest that call in concrete ways. They would not know it, but their soul yearns for God, taking the very posture of Paul in relation to God, “who from my mother’s womb had set me apart and called me through his grace” (Gal 1:15).
When are they called? Constantly. It is just unfortunate that they are preoccupied with the world and are not attuned to hearing God’s call. But somehow God arranges an opportune moment, often through some calamity or loss or great failure. And God is “pleased to reveal his Son to (them)” (Gal 1:16a). Then they are ripe for the harvest. But workers are needed to bring in the harvest. We must be prepared to seize the moment.
One who meets Christ and starts to live Christ is also one who will share Christ. That is but a natural consequence. When we have experienced the love and beauty of the Lord, we cannot restrain ourselves from proclaiming him to others. God is “pleased to reveal his Son to me, so that I might proclaim him to the Gentiles” (Gal 1:16a-b). It becomes a virtuous cycle. The evangelized becomes the evangelizer. One who has received will be one who will give.
As Christians, we look to God. While we have our bishops and priests, our community elders, our counselors, our brethren in the Lord, our basic relationship is with God, whose work evangelization is, and whose plan we are carrying out. Too many look to humans they admire, and often they may end up disappointed due to the failings of those people–a cleric who commits sexual abuse, a pastor who has extramarital relationships or who steals money, a community elder who veers away or is disobedient to Church authority. Now God does give us good leaders whom we can emulate and follow, but such can never be in lieu of our directly listening to God in prayer and following Him in His commands. “I did not immediately consult flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; rather, I went into Arabia and then returned to Damascus.” (Gal 1:16c-17).
In addition to looking first and foremost to God, as Catholics we look to Peter, the pope. We look to the teachings and traditions of our apostolic Church. We are obedient to her Magisterium. Today there are too many dissidents within the Church. There are too many dissenting voices. Catholics can end up confused. Their consciences may be malformed by a liberal priest. They may even end up supporting such abominations as “reproductive health.” So we must be connected in mind and heart with Peter, and look to Vatican City (Rome) as the center of our Roman Catholic faith. “Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to confer with Cephas and remained with him for fifteen days.” (Gal 1:18). You may want to consider a pilgrimage to Rome once in your lifetime, and see the pope in his public audience.
Having been evangelized, entering into a personal relationship with Jesus, firm in our Catholic faith, we are then prepared to evangelize, to proclaim Jesus and his salvation to the ends of the earth. “Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia.” (Gal 1:21).
Most of us will do our work anonymously. “And I was unknown personally to the churches of Judea that are in Christ” (Gal 1:22). We may never be acclaimed on earth. We may never be thanked even by those we worked to evangelize. But God will know. After all, our response is exactly according to His eternal plan for us. We work for the glory of God and never for our own. Our ultimate reward is in heaven.
Jesus converted Saul directly in a dramatic fashion. Now Jesus uses us to bring about the conversion of others, often in not so dramatic fashion. Still it is the same work.
Would it not be wonderful if the really bad people around got converted because of our effort? Would it not be grand if the neo-pagans who are assaulting the Church are transformed into saints? Could we look to the time when those promoting the culture of death suddenly become agents of the culture of life? With God nothing is impossible. Faith works wonders. Would that in the world, “they only kept hearing that ‘the one who once was persecuting us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.’” (Gal 1:23).
Let us BE.LI.EV.E and go about the work of evangelization. With great zeal and passion. Let us become “even more a zealot for (our) ancient traditions” (Gal 1:14b), the authentic gospel and way of life that has been taught us by Jesus and the holy Roman Catholic Church over two millennia. May people be brought to Christ because of us. May all of us work wonders for the glory of God. “So they glorified God because of me.” (Gal 1:24).
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