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Bible Reflections View Comments

We Preach the Gospel with Our Lives
By Diane M. Houdek
Source: Bringing Home the Word
Published: Sunday, May 12, 2013
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St. Paul tells the Ephesians, “May the eyes of your heart be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call.” It reminds me of the line from Antoine St. Exupery’s classic story The Little Prince: “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly. What is essential is invisible to the eye.”

It’s easy to talk about the things that Jesus said and did while he was here on earth. We understand his parables; we grasp the significance of the things he tells us about God the Father, about the kingdom of heaven; we marvel at his healing touch. But in this Easter season we wrestle with the transition from this earthly ministry to something that we can’t see and hear and touch. And it’s this very transition that makes our belief more than merely following a good man or a wise teacher.

It’s comforting to know that we’re not alone in this. After Jesus’s return to his Father, the apostles are still trying to see him with their earthly eyes, so much so that an angel asks them: “Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking up at the sky?” They have been sent to proclaim the Good News to the ends of the earth, but their hearts haven’t accepted that message yet. They’re still not quite sure that they can do what Jesus did.

Luke’s Gospel for the Ascension tells us that Jesus cautioned his followers to return to the city until they were “clothed with power from on high.” Throughout the Easter season, we find the apostles gathered in Jerusalem for prayer as a community to wait for the Holy Spirit Jesus promised to send. They know they’re on their own now, that the task is theirs, but they also know that they’re never truly alone. The Lord watches over us as we do his work in the world. We may not see him, but faith tells us he’s there.

Wisely, they follow the advice to spend time in prayer, to spend time with one another puzzling out the marvelous things they have experienced. They know what they’re up against. They know that they will need to go back to face the very people who executed Jesus. It’s no wonder they’re confused and even afraid. But they remember what Jesus said when he was with them. And they wait for the inspiration of the Spirit.

So it is with our call to go out and proclaim the Gospel message in our own day. We will always encounter those who doubt and who criticize us for our beliefs. A memorized presentation of facts and doctrines will do little to persuade most people. Like the first disciples, we need to let the spirit animate us. We need to let the words of Jesus sink so deeply into out hearts that our lives show forth their meaning.

The core of the message will always be the words and deeds of Jesus in the Gospel. But the real proof will lie in the way that our own actions show love for others and service to the little ones and the least ones. If we strive to do this consistently, people around us will begin to and wonder at what moves and inspires us. We can bring them along with us gradually, attentive to the Spirit working in them as well as in us.

The days between Ascension and Pentecost give us a marvelous opportunity to reflect on the work that we’ve been called to do, on the Spirit that empowers us for that work, and on the difference it can make in our world. We may be a bit cautious at first, but before long, we, like the apostles, will be going out with great joy to praise God.


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Philip Neri: Philip Neri was a sign of contradiction, combining popularity with piety against the background of a corrupt Rome and a disinterested clergy, the whole post-Renaissance malaise. 
<p>At an early age, he abandoned the chance to become a businessman, moved to Rome from Florence and devoted his life and individuality to God. After three years of philosophy and theology studies, he gave up any thought of ordination. The next 13 years were spent in a vocation unusual at the time—that of a layperson actively engaged in prayer and the apostolate. </p><p>As the Council of Trent (1545-63) was reforming the Church on a doctrinal level, Philip’s appealing personality was winning him friends from all levels of society, from beggars to cardinals. He rapidly gathered around himself a group of laypersons won over by his audacious spirituality. Initially they met as an informal prayer and discussion group, and also served poor people in Rome. </p><p>At the urging of his confessor, he was ordained a priest and soon became an outstanding confessor, gifted with the knack of piercing the pretenses and illusions of others, though always in a charitable manner and often with a joke. He arranged talks, discussions and prayers for his penitents in a room above the church. He sometimes led “excursions” to other churches, often with music and a picnic on the way. </p><p>Some of his followers became priests and lived together in community. This was the beginning of the Oratory, the religious institute he founded. A feature of their life was a daily afternoon service of four informal talks, with vernacular hymns and prayers. Giovanni Palestrina was one of Philip’s followers, and composed music for the services. </p><p>The Oratory was finally approved after suffering through a period of accusations of being an assembly of heretics, where laypersons preached and sang vernacular hymns! (Cardinal Newman founded the first English-speaking house of the Oratory three centuries later.) </p><p>Philip’s advice was sought by many of the prominent figures of his day. He is one of the influential figures of the Counter-Reformation, mainly for converting to personal holiness many of the influential people within the Church itself. His characteristic virtues were humility and gaiety.</p> American Catholic Blog When we suffer, we don’t just come to understand the pain of Christ’s cross more, we come to understand the depth of God’s love for us: that he would endure such pain for us—in our place. We have a God who endured death so we would never have to do so.

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