Friday, May 12, 2017

Preparing a place.


I am struck by the nature of preaching in many of the churches I grew up in.  For the most part, the preachers had a standard message that they gave to all audiences.   Sometimes they scripture they chose to deliver that message was different, sometimes it was the same old scripture.   The message was always the same though.  We are sinners, repent, come to the altar, say a sinners prayer.   It didn't matter if they were preaching to their own congregation or visiting a different church.   At school lock-ins, in a hospital, or on a street corner, the message never changed. It never attempted to meet the person they were witnessing to, but only to deliver that same traditional speech.

Paul in today's reading gives us a different kind of witness.   Yes, he is reaching out with the message of Christ and the Gospel cannot be altered.  But Paul is speaking to a specific kind of crowd.   He meets them in the context they will understand.   The context of Israel, the Jewish people.   We find later that when he is in a roman area he meets them as a roman, and when he is in an area of polytheistic worship he uses an example they are familiar with to try and bring the message across.  The same message, delivered in a different way.   He wanted to meet people where they are, with what they know, and bring them to the knowledge of Christ in a way that makes sense to them.

There was a movie, and forgive me because I don't remember the name, but in the movie, some white settlers are traveling and meet up with a tribe of Indians and get snowed in with them for the entire winter.   They begin to tell the story of the nativity on Christmas and in doing so, they use the images the Native Americans were familiar with.   They didn't change the story.   They just met the people where they were, in terms they understood, with images and thoughts that would let them understand Jesus.  Jesus will always be the way, the truth, and the life.   He will always be the ultimate example of what it means to follow God, to give our lives over to Him, to do God's will.   Our goal with evangelization is to meet people in their experience.  It's to talk to them in a way they understand, with terms they can employ.  

Thomas speaks for all of us, in that sometimes we get confused.   "We don't know where you are going, how can we know the way?"  Sometimes we make it complicated.   We want the story to require all these extra things, these exact terms, be said with this exact phrase.   Jesus response is a simple one... one that should guide us in evangelization.  "I am the way the truth and the life.   No one comes to the Father except through me."    It's not head knowledge that will save us, though having a good strong understanding of our faith can be very beneficial.   It's not doctorates, Ph.D.s  or accolades.   It's simply Jesus Christ.   His work.  His merits.  His sacrifice.   Yes, I want to learn as much as I can about the bible.  I read as many books as I can get my hands on about Church history, the early Church fathers, sermons from antiquity.  Why?  Because I want to know Him!  I'm in love with Him and His Sacred Scriptures.  That's what we share.   That's how we evangelize.   Love.   It should show in every action.   In our homes.  In our marriages.   In our reading of the Sacred Word.

When we get lost and need a sign, we often ignore the greatest signs of all.   Life.   Each other.   Creation.  That beautiful library of books we call the Bible.  Mass.   Oh yes, maybe that is the greatest of all.  For it contains all of those.   We encounter Christ in the people, in the Priest, in the spoken and written proclamation of the Scriptures, and in the Eucharist itself.  A created gift that has been turned into the uncreated by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Oh if we only knew what that meant.   To receive God in all His glory.   Body, soul, and divinity.   Would we even survive that encounter if it were not for His grace and mercy itself?  The God who warned Moses that we could not even look upon His countenance and survive became a man that they might encounter Him face to face.   That same God becomes bread that we may not only encounter Him but receive Him directly into our bodies... Not only is He preparing a place for us at the end of time... but in the Sacraments, He prepares a place for Him in and with us in the here and now.   How much more glorious a gift can one receive?

His servant and yours,
Brian Mullins

"Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my rock, and my redeemer. - Psalm 19:14

A reflection on the readings for Friday of the Fourth Week of Easter: May 12th, 2017