SHARING WHAT WE HAVE SEEN AND HEARD

FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL

THE NEW EVANGELIZATION

(Part 123)

SHARING WHAT WE HAVE SEEN AND HEARD

April 11, 2015

Today’s readings:

Acts 4:13-21

Psalm 118:1-21

Mark 16:9-15

Jesus has won for us our salvation. That is the most important news in the world. And our most important task is to share that good news, so that others can experience that salvation as well. And so Jesus issues the Great Commission: “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.” (Mk 16:15).

When Jesus healed the two blind men and the leper and the deaf man, he told them not to tell anyone, but all the more they did so. They of course could not help but share the good news. So how much more for those who actually witnessed the good news and were told to share it? Thus, when Peter and John were ordered by the Sanhedrin not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus, they answered, “It is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:20).

Why was such their posture? Well, their hearts were filled with overflowing joy for what Jesus had done for them. “The joyful shout of deliverance is heard in the tents of the righteous.” (Ps 118:15a). If they did not speak of the gospel, their hearts would burst! And so they simply had to “declare the deeds of the Lord.” (Ps 118:17b).

Well, Jesus today also tells all who are supposed to be his followers to proclaim the gospel. Why do most of them do not? It is because they are nominal Christians. They do not have a real appreciation of what Jesus has done for them. They are basically unmindful of this truth: “The Lord, my strength and might, has become my savior” (Ps 118:14). In other words, they have not truly met Jesus and experienced the good news of salvation in him.

Peter and John said they simply needed to speak about what they had seen and heard. They had no choice but to share Christ because they had met him and was living his salvation. On the other hand, nominal Christians have not truly met Jesus and do not truly know him. What they see is not Jesus but the enticements of the secular environment around them, and what they hear is not Jesus’ words but the call of the flesh and the world. Unfortunately, that is also what they share with others–not Christ but the human pleasures of life.

For those of us who are not nominal Christians, what can keep us from sharing Christ? Among other things, it would basically be lack of faith and hardness of heart. Jesus “rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart because they had not believed” (Mk 16:14).

Unbelief comes in different forms:

* Not sharing the vision for evangelization.

* Not trusting in the empowerment that comes with the Spirit.

* Looking at how difficult it is to evangelize and giving up at the outset.

* Giving up on difficult or bad people.

* Being occupied with one’s own agenda and priorities rather than the priority of proclaiming the gospel.

Hardness of heart happens in different ways:

* Looking at the lost sheep and not seeing Christ in them or being unmindful of their need for Christ.

* Not willing to give the time, effort and energy needed to do the work.

* Not being generously supportive of the mission with our financial resources.

* Being self-referential and not open to self-denial or embrace of the cross.

Now even for those who know and live Christ, in today’s very humanistic world there could be a challenge to share Christ. In the western world, Christians are more and more being prevented by the state from manifesting their faith–from display of Christian symbols, to refusing to serve same-sex couples or participating in an abortion, to preaching about the dysfunction of homosexuality, to openly professing one’s faith in the workplace. Just like with Peter and John, today’s modernist states have “ordered them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.” (Acts 4:18).

The aim of the secular humanist state is to suppress religion, and especially Christianity, and more especially Catholicism. This is because authentic Christian values are totally opposed to secular humanist values. Thus there will be state-sponsored oppression and ultimately persecution, with the aim to weaken or even to wipe out the faith. “But so that it may not be spread any further among the people, let us give them a stern warning never again to speak to anyone in this name.” (Acts 18:17).

The situation for Christians today is dire. All the more, we need to evangelize more aggressively. In the face of challenges and opposition from a secular world, we need to be bold. If we are authentic Christians who have met and are living Christ, then we must have no choice but to share Christ. This is for all, especially the laypeople, including the least among us. “Observing the boldness of Peter and John and perceiving them to be uneducated, ordinary men, they were amazed, and they recognized them as the companions of Jesus.” (Acts 4:13).

The state has legalized abominations such as divorce, abortion and same-sex unions. But not only have these been legalized, but the modernist state is imposing these evils upon all, especially Christians. Not to follow is to invite court suits, loss of jobs, imprisonment, heavy fines, and the like. The apostles and disciples would eventually face imprisonment, flogging and crucifixion. But they would not be dissuaded from proclaiming Christ. “Whether it is right in the sight of God for us to obey you rather than God, you be the judges.” (Acts 4:19).

How can Christians endure the persecution that is already upon us? It is to look to Jesus. “The Lord is with me; I am not afraid; what can mortals do against me?” (Ps 118:6). Of course mortals can do a lot to us, like kill us. But such martyrdom is a blessing. “I shall not die but live” (Ps 118:17a). We will live eternally, which is precisely the intent of salvation and the message of the gospel. “Open the gates of righteousness; I will enter and thank the Lord. This is the Lord’s own gate, through it the righteous enter. I thank you for you answered me; you have been my savior.” (Ps 118:19-21).

Have you met Christ? Are you living Christ? Then you must share Christ.

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