Gospel Reflection for Ascencion Sunday

Evangelize the already Evangelized (from my book ‘A Shepherd’s Voice’, 2007)

The disciples witnessed the Lord ascending to heaven (Acts 1:1-11). In the same breath, when Jesus left His disciples, He also commissioned them to fulfill a mission. What did Jesus want them to fulfill? Our gospel for today‘s feast outlines the priorities and values Jesus wanted His disciples to remember and live out. He intended these words for us, too. They are words that evangelize the already evangelized. What did He actually say? There was an intended sequence or order:

“Make disciples of all nations.” (Matthew 28:19) This is a tall order and a demanding call and responsibility. How can this be done? This is possible only if we are able to attract others by our own witnessing. Witnessing comes before any teaching of faith and moral doctrine. We must also understand that becoming a witness of Christ is contagious. We contaminate others with the words and deeds of our Lord. To make disciples is to make people fall in love with Christ through us.

“Baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 28:19) To be baptized is to be initiated into the life of Christ. Once people have been attracted to our way of life, they would then want to enter that life fully by renewing the gift of baptism they have already received. They recognize the gift of the Triune God which they already possess, enabling them to renew their relationship with God and their relationship with others. The baptism in the name of the Blessed Trinity is actually a baptism of reconciliation that empowers Christians to be reconciled to God and to the Christian community. The effect of this renewal of the gift of baptism is that people fall in love with members of the Church.

“Teach them to observe all the commands I gave you.” (Matthew 20:20) God gave us Ten Commandments to follow. We may know them by head and by heart, but do we obey them? When asked what was the greatest of all the commandments, Jesus wisely summed them up in two commandments of love: love of God and love of neighbor. How much have we generously loved God and neighbor? St. Thomas Aquinas said: “God‘s precepts are light to the loving and heavy to the fearful.” (Ronald de Sola Chervin, Quotable Saints, p. 163, 1995) We must lead others to observe God‘s commandments with a willing and sincere heart, with great love and fear of the Lord.

“I am with you always till the end of the age.” (Matthew 20:20) This statement is an assurance from our Lord to encourage us to make disciples, to baptize our fellow Christians in a life of reconciliation with Christ and to teach them to observe the commands of God. His presence will empower us to proclaim His Gospel till the end of time. When we become instruments of love, service and compassion towards others, we make the presence of Christ real in the here and now. The challenge is to share and give credibility to the assurance of Christ that He will be with us forever.

The task of evangelization is not easy. Jesus, Himself, said that the harvest is great but the laborers are few (cf. Matthew 9:37). This is called the phenomenon of ‘fewness’. Fewness, in the ultimate analysis, makes us realize the sad fact that in spite of the overpopulation of Catholics, especially in our country, there are only a few who have seen the real light of Christ. A great number of the harvest has become complacent, indifferent, and uninvolved in being authentically Catholic. The challenge is to reveal Jesus Christ to the community of believers who have been touched by His love and presence. But we can only do this if we heed this advice of Paul VI: “The Church is an evangelizer, but she begins by being evangelized herself… she has a constant need of being evangelized, if she wishes to retain freshness, vigor and strength in order to proclaim the Gospel.” (Evangelii Nuntiandi, n. 15, Cf. Acts and Decrees of PCP-II, p. 59) Thus, before we can evangelize others effectively, we, ourselves, must truly first be evangelized.

Share this insight during this glorious season of #easter

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