22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle A)

 I was thinking this morning that if I were able to put a short pithy saying on our sign out in front of the church, about today’s readings, it would be something like: “God’s word - do you want the bad news first, or the Good News,”
           Have you noticed how the local news programs nowadays have these short segments after about 5 or 10 minutes regular news called “Today’s Good News” or “Guaranteed Good News” or something like that? They give us about ten minutes of earthquakes, auto accidents and killings and then throw in some lighter stuff to make us feel a little better. But of course, when we gather around the water cooler at work or get together with friends and we start talking about the news, what’s the first thing we talk about? Usually the not so good news.
          Well, that’s what happened to Peter in today’s Gospel. He was so overwhelmed by the announcement that Jesus would have to suffer greatly and be killed by the chief priests and the scribes that he completely missed the ultimate good news - the news that Jesus would also be raised from the dead. So Jesus, after telling Peter not to think as human beings do, but as God does, continues to tell him and the other Apostles how God thinks. He says:

                             Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself,

                             take up his cross, and follow me.

                             For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,

                             but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

          Jeremiah, in today’s first reading, is a is an excellent example of someone who did just that. He preached about 600 years before the time of Jesus, and is considered sort of a “doom and gloom” prophet, though when he started his ministry Jeremiah didn’t think it was going to be like that at all. He was told that his ministry would be “to root up and to tear down, to build and to plant.” But after he began preaching he found that the word of God at that time was constantly a word of doom. And nobody likes that kind of prophecy, so Jeremiah found he’d become an object of laughter and of scorn, constantly mocked, attacked and rejected. Ironically, when Jesus arrives on the scene about 600 years later as a preacher of the “Good News,” he was also mocked, attacked, and rejected. And most probably, 2000 years later, we can expect no less when we live our faith openly, even in a society that claims to be free.

          So it seems that no matter what our approach is to spreading God’s word, there’s always going to be some risk involved in doing so. The question is - are we willing to take that risk and thumb our nose at a world that scoffs at anything to do with God and religion? Is our personal relationship with God deep enough to take that risk? Jeremiah says that even though he tried to keep it in to save from being laughed at, the Word of God was like a fire burning in his heart, he grew weary of holding it in and he had to tell people.

          Paul tells us in today’s 2nd reading:

                             Do not conform yourselves to this age

                             but be transformed by the renewal of your mind,

                             that you may discern the will of God,

                             what is good, pleasing, and perfect.

That’s the first step in Evangelization, particularly Catholic Evangelization.

          When Pope Paul VI wrote his encyclical Evangelization in the Modern World, he said: “Evangelization begins when you accept God’s Word into your life. Then you proclaim that Word to others by living it out in service and witness.” St. Francis said something similar when he said: “Preach the Gospel always - and if necessary, use words.”

          We, as Catholics, are sometimes uncomfortable with the word “evangelization,” especially here in the United States where the term often means an individual response to enthusiastic preaching or a particular style of mass religion, popularlized by the tele-evangelists, at its worst, we thinks it’s a contrived way to play on peoples needs and recruit new members.

          But we use the word evangelization” because its root meaning is Gospel, that is, the Good News. The word calls us, even if uncomfortably, to live out the faith of our baptism more openly and share it more freely. And it’s because of our membership in Christ’s Body, the Church, through baptism,  that we are all called to evangelize in one way or another.

          Our faith is not something that only happens to each of us individually or privately, within  ourselves. The Good News of the Gospel also speaks to the values, goals, and systems of society itself. For us, as evengelizers, this means that sometimes we have to confront the world just like the prophets of old, pointing out the claims of God to those parts of our society and culture that are blind to God. More often, however, it means that we must let our faith shine on the world around us, radiating the love of Jesus by the everyday way we speak, think and act.

          We often complain about the state of society these days and wonder what can be done. Well the Church believes that evengelization is what can be done. The fruit of evengelization is changed lives and a changed world - holiness, justice, spirituality and peace. The validation of our having accepted the Gospel doesn’t come from what we feel or what we know; it comes from the way we serve others, especially the poorest, the most marginal, the most hurting, the most defenseless, and the least loved. An evengelization that stays inside ourselves is not an evengelization into the Good News of Jesus Christ.

          The brochure you all received when you came into church today has some excellent guidelines on ways to evangelize that we as individuals can incorporate into our everyday lives. We have a choice, we can either just talk about what is wrong with the world today; or we can do something about it. In the early ‘70’s Alvin Lee and Ten Years After had a hit song called “I’d Love To Change the World.” But the chorus went:

                   I’d love to change the world

                   but I don’t know what to do

                   so I leave it up to you.

Well, if they’d of had this little pamphlet, they might have known where to start.

          Let’s ask the Holy Spirit to continue to renew and convert us throughout our lives as we follow Christ. If our faith is alive, it will be aroused again and again as we grow and mature as children of God and disciples of Jesus Christ.