FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL
THE NEW EVANGELIZATION
OUR THEME FOR 2014
WOE TO ME IF I DO NOT PREACH THE GOSPEL!
Today’s reading: 1 Corinthians 9:16-19, 22-27
We are empowered to witness. This is our privilege, but it is also our obligation. “If I preach the gospel, this is no reason for me to boast, for an obligation has been imposed on me” (v.16a). We have been commanded to preach the gospel. God expects us to do so. God is making Himself and His work dependent upon us. If we do not, there will be serious consequences. Indeed, as Paul said, “woe to me if I do not preach it!” (v.16b).
What do we need to understand about the Great Commission?
One, it is not just a service we opt to do, but is a stewardship imposed by God. “If I do so willingly, I have a recompense, but if unwillingly, then I have been entrusted with a stewardship.” (v.17). Many Catholics of course do not share Christ. Perhaps they are just ignorant of this stewardship. Now when we do evangelize, then we are amply blessed, given satisfaction and joy in doing so. But if we are unwilling to respond to God’s call, then we need to be told that God actually compels us to do this work. It is not an option. It is a command for all who profess to be Christ’s disciples.
Two, as stewards we are servants. We have been given a privilege, but no rights or position or claim to acclaim. Aside from the joy of proclaiming Christ, we are not to profit personally. We act like Paul: “That, when I preach, I offer the gospel free of charge so as not to make full use of my right in the gospel.” (v.18b). Yes we act in the name of Jesus. Yes we carry on divine work. Yes God depends on us for the salvation of souls. But no, the gospel is not to be a way of business or material or social profit for us. The privilege of being a witness to Jesus is its own reward.
Three, as stewards on whom God is relying for His work to be done and His plan to be accomplished, we are slaves who have no rights and who are to expend ourselves in doing the work. We are to do as much as we can. “Although I am free in regard to all, I have made myself a slave to all so as to win over as many as possible.” (v.19). We are not to be content to reach just one or two or a handful. We are to go all out to proclaim the gospel to all, indeed to the whole world, and to do so with a sense of urgency.
Four, as stewards who are compelled by God to do this crucial work, our own salvation is dependent upon our doing this work. “All this I do for the sake of the gospel, so that I too may have a share in it.” (v.23). We not only repent and turn to faith in Jesus. We not only become a good person, avoiding sin and wrongdoing. We need to become evangelizers as well. We not only strive to live Christ, but we also must share Christ. If we do not, we endanger our own salvation. If we do not gather the sheep, we scatter them. If we do not proclaim the gospel, those for whom Jesus died will continue in their sins and not merit the salvation already won for them. The harvest is rich but the laborers are few. If we who are called to be those laborers do not bring in that harvest, in effect thwarting the plan of God, then we ourselves are not deserving of the ultimate gift of salvation.
Finally, since this work is so important, we need to work at our own capability to be able to effectively do the work. We do not just coast along. We focus. We endure. We persist. “Run so as to win.” (v.24b). We are disciples and so we are to be disciplined. “Every athlete exercises discipline in every way.” (v.25a). This is about the discipline of daily prayer, of daily Bible reading, of faithfulness to community meetings, of chipping away at the negatives in our lives, of loving our brethren unconditionally, of asking and granting forgiveness, of supporting God’s work with our time, talent and treasure.
“Thus I do not run aimlessly” (v.26a). We have a vision and a mission. We go for it. We do not run around in circles. We do not engage in fruitless argumentation or polemics. We do not engage in destructive dissent. “I do not fight as if I were shadowboxing.” (v.26b). We are in a real, vicious war. This is the fight of our lives. Everything, including the well-being of our families, depends on the effective proclamation of the gospel. We go all-out as warriors.
“No, I drive my body and train it, for fear that, after having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified.” (v.27). It was not enough to live Christ but we also needed to share Christ. Now we see it is not enough to just share Christ in any which way, but we must be able to preach effectively. How? We must grow in holiness. We must be ready to endure the cross. We must be willing to suffer as we engage the enemy. We must grow to be saints, martyrs and warriors.
Many Catholics in the world are seeking excellence, and they want to excel in business, in politics, in society. They seek wealth, power, position, acclaim. We seek only one thing–to serve God and His people. Others might think of us as fools, as we expend ourselves in God’s work, while others accumulate more and more of what the world has to offer. But we have chosen the better part. “They do it to win a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one.” (v.25b).
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