FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL
THE NEW EVANGELIZATION
THE BAPTISM OF THE GENTILES EXPLAINED
April 27, 2015
Today’s reading: Acts 11:1-18
Sometimes, even as we are anointed by God for His work, even as we are trying to zealously pursue our mission, we can remain blind to the radical directions of God, and remain steadfast (stubborn) in our own ideas and agenda.
Thus, since the early Church saw their mission as only to the Jews, even as “the Gentiles too had accepted the word of God” (v.1), the circumcised believers confronted Peter for reaching out to the Gentiles (v.2-3). They were vehement in their opposition to what he had done.
Indeed, did not Jesus tell them to go after the lost sheep of Israel? Yes, but he also empowered them with the Spirit to be witnesses not only in Jerusalem but also in Samaria and to the ends of the earth. They just had to go first to the Jews because those were the core of the people of God, and they would eventually form the core for the Christian Church.
So Peter, anointed by God to lead the Church as the first pope, had been given a vision (v.5). It was of various animals forbidden by law to be eaten (v.6), and he was told to eat them (v.7). Being a devout Jew, Peter of course objected (v.8). God had to tell him pointedly, due to his intransigence, “What God has made clean, you are not to call profane.” (v.8). Peter still resisted (v.9-10). God had to send three men (Gentiles) from Caesarea to summon him (v.11-12). The one who sent the men, Cornelius, had himself been given a vision by God, that Peter was to be summoned so he could speak words of salvation to them (v.13-14).
Hardly had Peter began to speak, when “the holy Spirit fell upon them as it had upon us at the beginning” (v.15). They were “baptized with the holy Spirit.” (v.16). And the Church continued to grow rapidly.
Now take our case in CFC-FFL. We were raised and are called by God to be an evangelistic and missionary community. We have been obedient to God for over 3 decades. But, perhaps given our “success,” we have also become complacent and perhaps a bit arrogant. Now our evangelization has stalled. But that was God’s way of leading us to LCSC.
However, after over 3 years, some (many?) of our brethren including leaders are still not fully accepting the vision, insisting on old ways (like recruitment into CFC-FFL). This is despite the fact that for over three years, I have “explained it to them step by step” (v.4).
God has given us a vision for truly rapid and massive evangelization in this third millennium. It is also a vision for mainstreaming Catholic lay evangelization, to help the parishes to have an effective “methodology” of doing the missing first step of the proclamation of the gospel of salvation in Jesus. It is a radical vision. While Church groups and parish ministries are often self-referential, resulting in disunity and even competition, LCSC is at the service of the Church through the parishes, intended for all parish ministries and organizations to participate in, without negatively affecting their own respective works and services.
But it seems that as God tells us to “Get up” and do this work, we say, “Certainly not, sir, because” nothing like that has ever been done by us. Hear what God tells us: “What God has” directed us to do, “you are not to” resist. We are being self-referential when we think only in terms of adding to our membership, rather than burning with zeal for the proclamation of the gospel, so that many more, especially lapsed Catholics, will be brought back to God and back to the Church.
In the LCS what we do is the kerygma, the apostolic proclamation of the gospel of salvation in Jesus. It is the missing first step in the work of evangelization. The Church has so much to offer, but unfortunately people are just not there to partake of the feast. Thus, in order to reach people and let them meet Christ once again, we invite them to the LCS. Here we “speak words to (them) by which (they) and (their) household will be saved.” (v.14).
Does such proclamation have to be an elaborate process? Does it have to be for 9 weeks? Well, Peter proclaimed one sermon in one day, without PowerPoint, and 3,000 persons accepted the good news!
Now know this. God is eager to pour His Spirit out upon His people, so that they can experience the salvation won by His Son Jesus for us all. The harvest is rich but the laborers are few. If only those called respond to the call and allow themselves to be sent (to be “apostles”), then there will be a massive harvest. God depends on us to proclaim the gospel, and when we allow ourselves to be used, then God equips and empowers us. The harvest is prepared. Let God surprise us as He surprised Peter. “As I began to speak, the holy Spirit fell upon them as it had upon us at the beginning” (v.15). Peter had just began to speak! God is impatient to bring salvation to all.
Why are many Catholics today living not as Christians but as pagans? They have been baptized with water sacramentally and have received the Holy Spirit. But God never forces Himself on us. He does everything for our good, but we need to respond. We need to repent (metanoia) and accept Jesus as Savior and Lord. Then we need to renew our baptismal commitment, now as adults who are making a decision for Jesus. Then we are prayed with for the baptism in the Spirit, for a renewed infilling of the Holy Spirit. “John baptized with water but you will be baptized with the holy Spirit.” (v.16).
Those who have met Christ and are living Christ need to share Christ. This is what we have been doing for over three decades in CFC-FFL. But now God wants that same work, with the attendant blessings, for everyone, including those who will not become members of CFC-FFL. This is the LCSC movement. “If then God gave them the same gift he gave to us when we came to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to be able to hinder God?” (v.17). It is not right to hinder God’s work, or to not respond to His clear call to the New Evangelization.
What would I really like to happen? Especially for our leaders, especially for our seniors, as they are the ones tasked with caring for the members and moving our life and mission forward. “When they heard this, they stopped objecting and glorified God, saying, ‘God has then granted life-giving repentance to the Gentiles too.’” (v.18).
There is much work to be done, especially as we hurtle along to 2021, the celebration of 500 years of Christianity in the Philippines. Thence it will be as we hurtle along to 2033, as the whole Church celebrates two millennia of Christianity.
Shall we get really moving?
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