February 4, 2018

In the readings from the Christian Scriptures we have for today, there is an urgency to sharing the Good News. In our Gospel reading from Mark, Jesus heals Peter’s mother-in-law in Capernaum, and later that day, in the evening, all sorts of people bring to Jesus the ill and those possessed by demons, and Jesus heals them all. The next morning, Jesus goes off by Himself to pray, but His solitude doesn’t seem to last very long. Peter finds Him and tells Him that all the people are looking for Him. But Jesus can’t stay: “Let us go to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose I have come.” You get the sense that Jesus is almost in a rush to reach as many people as He can.

In our second reading from 1 Corinthians, St. Paul speaks about the compulsion he has to preach the Gospel: “If I preach the gospel, this is no reason for me to boast, for an obligation has been imposed on me and woe to me if I do not preach it.” And then Paul speaks of the length to which he is willing to go: “Although I am free in regard to all, I have made myself a slave to all so as to win over as many as possible.” Again, he says: “I have become all things to all, to save at least some.” It seems that Paul is almost willing to do anything for the sake of the Gospel. I don’t think he means being false to himself, or diluting the Gospel message. I think he means that he is willing to be with anyone wherever they are in life in order that they may hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Is there that kind of urgency and willingness to spread the Gospel today? And from where would that urgency come? This is a question that calls for some reflection, at least for me. Do we have to believe in “no salvation outside the church” to have an urgency about the Gospel? I’m not so sure. I don’t feel comfortable assuming so many people are going to hell because they don’t believe as I do.

I wonder if the urgency about spreading the Gospel has more to do with bringing healing to those who are experiencing hell right now. There are many people in our world today who feel just like Job in our first reading. At this point in his life, Job sees no possibility for joy in his life. He sees his existence as sheer drudgery. He has gone through a lot of suffering, and it seems understandable that he could feel this way.

It seems to me that there are many people on the verge of despair, and many others who have given up hope. We in the U.S, often consider ourselves blessed to be here, and yet there is an opioid crisis in this country. So many people have fallen into addiction, which is usually brought about by trying to numb the pain, physical and otherwise, in their lives. Many people attribute violence to a feeling of hopelessness. If there is no hope for a future, what’s the value of my life or anyone else’s?

So perhaps the urgency in spreading the Gospel is in bringing hope to people caught in desperate situations. Perhaps the urgency in spreading the Gospel is not so much to have people avoid condemnation but rather to let them know they are loved beyond description. There is urgency in spreading the Gospel because there are so many who are suffering as Job did, and are ready to give up.

Even though we may experience hardship and grief, we people of faith do not despair, for we know that the Cross is followed by Resurrection.

May we feel the urgency to share the love and hope we have in Christ Jesus.

In His Name,

         Fr. Phil, CP