Spreading the Gospel Is Every Christian’s Primary Mission

Feb 4, 2018: 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Job 7:1-4, 6-7
Psalms 147:1-6
First Corinthians 9:16-19, 22-23
Mark 1:29-39
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People today are continuing to make the same mistake that they have been making for the last two hundred years: Too many of our cultural, political, and economic leaders are trying to build a stable, just, and prosperous global society without acknowledging their dependence on God. This is what we call secularism. It is a perennial temptation for every individual and society, and many of last century’s tragedies flowed from falling into it. The injustices of Soviet Communism, the destruction of two World Wars, the genocides and massacres flaring up on every continent… These resulted from human societies trying to build themselves up without building on the solid foundation of faith in and obedience to Jesus Christ and His teachings, the God of wisdom, mercy, and peace.

If we do not want our century to make the same mistake, then we have before us the shining example of St Paul, who courageously dedicated his entire life to spreading the gospel to all peoples, in spite of suffering, persecution, and rejection. If all Catholics decided to follow that example in their own lives, then the Church will once again fulfill her critical mission of being the salt of the earth and the light of the world. That is what we are for; it is our primary mission in life, every single one of us. Our motto must be the same as the one St Paul wrote in today’s Second Reading: “Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!”

When we were baptized, we became children of God through grace, members of His family.

Furthermore, when we were confirmed, we became partners in God’s work of salvation, soldiers equipped to fight evil and spread the Kingdom of Christ.

This is our core identity, and so this should be our first priority. This work of building up Christ’s Kingdom is not just for priests, nuns, and full-time missionaries. Every Christian is a full-time missionary! This is why the list of canonized saints does not only contain monks, nuns, bishops, and priests. It also contains kids and carpenters, moms and dads, attorneys and artists.

We are all familiar with the worldwide Catholic charity organization called The Society of St Vincent de Paul. Most of us probably think that St Vincent de Paul, a tireless French priest who lived in the 1600s, founded this incredible organization. That is not the case; it was merely named after St Vincent de Paul. The St Vincent de Paul Society was actually founded in the 1800s by a 20-year-old French college student and seven of his friends. His name was Frederick Ozanam, and Pope John Paul II beatified him in 1997. He was a talented young man who earned his doctorate degree in literature at the University of Paris and went on to become a law professor and judge. He was just a normal Christian, a Catholic like any one of us. However, he was an authentic Christian who lived his life-mission coherently. That authenticity, that coherence, gave birth to the St Vincent de Paul Society, which today, more than 160 years after his death, is still spreading the gospel through its more than 800,000 active members in 147 different countries.

As Christians, this is our primary mission in life: to know, love, and follow Jesus Christ, and help others do the same.

Blessed Frederick started the St Vincent de Paul Society because he “wanted to ensure my faith by works of charity.”

That sounds quite similar to St Paul’s explanation of his Christian activity in today’s Second Reading: “All this I do for the sake of the gospel, so that I too may have a share in it.”

There are two sides to our life as Christian missionaries: prayer and action. We all need to stay close to Jesus Christ through a healthy prayer life and through the sacraments. However, prayer is only half of our missionary responsibility. The other half is action. We need actively to spread the gospel to those around us.

We do this mainly in three ways: by our example, words, and deeds.

Perhaps the easiest one to overlook is our words, and this involves two things.

First, it includes telling others about Christ’s message of salvation, and God gives each one of us opportunities to do that. It can be as simple as reminding people that God is ready to forgive their sins, or that Jesus promised total happiness not here on earth but with Him in heaven. On the other hand, it can be a more in-depth conversation with someone who is really searching for life’s meaning. God is at work in everyone’s heart, and we need to stay alert for the times that He wants us to be His workers.

Second, spreading the gospel through our words means speaking positively about others. God loves every person. Every person is a potential saint. Jesus died and rose for every person — not just for the ones with whom we easily get along. A mature Christian keeps this in mind and avoids speaking badly of others, spreading or listening to rumors, or taking pleasure in criticizing them. St James says that “If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man” (James 3:2).

As Jesus renews His commitment to us in this Mass, let’s ask Him to strengthen our commitment to Him, by giving every day this week the missionary meaning that it truly has.

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