“As you go, make this proclamation: ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, drive out demons. Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give. Do not take gold or silver or copper for your belts; no sack for the journey, or a second tunic, or sandals, or walking stick. The laborer deserves his keep. Whatever town or village you enter, look for a worthy person in it, and stay there until you leave. As you enter a house, wish it peace. If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; if not, let your peace return to you. Whoever will not receive you or listen to your words—go outside that house or town and shake the dust from your feet. Amen, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.” (Matthew 10: 7-15)
Today in the Gospel, Jesus sends the apostles on their first missionary journey
He was preparing them — and through them, us — to take his mercy to the ends of the earth. In this first expedition of evangelization, Jesus didn’t give them a lengthy message, just five words in St. Matthew’s Greek, and seven in our English translation: “The Kingdom of heaven is at hand!”
He then reminds them that which they have received must now be passed on to others without expecting a favor in return, whether it be in the form of a gift or payment. hey must give their full attention to the proclamation of God’s kingdom and not be diverted by other lesser things.
So far, most people get that. They nod their heads in agreement. But when pressed about the “requirement” that we help prepare the way and evangelize, the head nodding stops. We have all heard the multitude of excuses including “but that’s not who I am, I can’t go out and evangelize.”
The fact is that in preparing for the kingdom being at hand, it’s the process of becoming a disciple that is empowering and helps each of us evangelize.
Being a disciple of Jesus does not mean that we have achieved perfection. It means we are making progress. And the progress we make need not be earth-shattering. It can occur in small steps.
To be a disciple we do not have to reach a state where we can claim that we never lose our patience. We only need to be more patient than we were last year. To follow Jesus we do not have to achieve a generosity and simplicity to rival Francis of Assisi. We only need to be more generous than we used to be. In following Christ’s example, we do not need to possess a perfect love which never judges another or speaks and unkind word. We only need to have a love which is growing rather than shrinking, expanding rather than turning inward.
Realistically, a disciple is one who is making progress. And it would be wise to set our goals accordingly. So do not say, “I will never lose my temper again.” Just try to be patient with your spouse, with your children, with your parents for one day, for a half a day, for a few hours. That would be a step in the right direction. Do not say, “I will never judge another person or close my mind to a new idea.” Just single out one occasion in which you truly try to listen, in which you take in the truth that another is trying to offer you. That would be genuine growth. Do not say, “I will be totally selfless and only think of others.” Just find one person in need or trouble and put yourself out so the he or she might know that someone cares. That would be a single grain of wheat falling to the ground and bearing fruit.
Being a disciple means that we are making progress. You do not have to be the best parent in the world. You only need to be a better parent in your own home. You do not have to be the most generous person in the United States. You only need to be someone more inclined to show interest in the elderly neighbor who requires your help. You do not need to be the holiest person in your neighborhood. You only need to take a step closer to becoming the person God calls you to be.
The reality is that people respond to witness far more than words. It’s through seeing our generosity that others will come to the source of all munificence. It’s through witnessing our trust in God’s providence that others will be opened to see how ever-reliable God is. It’s through our own peacemaking that others will begin to discern the Prince of Peace. It’s through the way we love each other, the way we forgive each other, the way we show the joy of mercy received and given, that others are able to come to the know God.
There, now, that wasn’t so hard, was it? When we take the steps to a lifetime of walking little steps closer to him, we have become the best evangelists of all.
Prayer of The Day
“Lord Jesus, may the joy and truth of the Gospel transform my life that I may witness it to those around me. Grant that I may spread your truth and your light wherever I go.”
When God gives us his word there comes with it the great responsibility to respond. Indifference will not do. We are either for or against God in how we respond to his word. God gives us his word that we may have life – abundant life in him. He wills to work in and through each of us for his glory. God shares his word with us and he commissions us to speak it boldly and simply to others. Do you witness the truth and joy of the Gospel by word and example to those around you?