GOOD NEWS TO THE POOR
December 15, 2013
Today’s gospel: Matthew 11:2-11
One thing to be said about the New Evangelization is that it is old, that is, it is still the same gospel message, with still the same intent of bringing salvation to all. The New Evangelization then is about recovering what God originally intended. What is that? Jesus himself proclaimed it: “the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.” (v.5b).
There are two basic elements that go together: one, the proclamation of the gospel, and two, the poor. Put another way, it is about the work of evangelization, and the work of building the Church of the Poor.
John the Baptist was the epitome of an evangelizer according to the mind of God. He was God’s messenger, sent to prepare the way of the Lord (v.10). So was he dressed in fine clothing and did he live in royal palaces (v.8) as befitting the representative of the King of kings? No, he was dressed in camel’s hair and lived in the wilderness. As Pope Francis has said, he wants a Church that is poor and for the poor. It is not a Church of pomp, pageantry or privilege. Her leaders are humble servants. What was fitting for the King of kings was to be born in a stable and to die on a cross.
The work of Jesus is about an overturning of the wrong that is happening in the world. God intended integral fullness from creation, but sin entered and brought darkness and misery. Jesus came so that the process of restoration might commence–from darkness to light, from misery to gladness, from death to life, from condemnation to salvation. Thus, through Jesus’ works, “the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised” (v.5a). And the poor become rich? No, “the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.” (v.5b).
Such should be the essence of the New Evangelization. Today, generally in the Church, we have failed to proclaim the gospel message, and so there are very many lapsed Catholics. And despite the massive social action work of the Church, very many people in the world live in poverty and misery. The two are related. If even just Catholics, who comprise one-sixth of the world’s population, were to help the poor, by living simpler lives, sharing their resources, and working for social justice, then there would be no one in need. This is not a pipe dream. It already actually happened in the life of the early Church. But for Catholics to have such deep fraternal concern for the poor, they need to be re-evangelized. They need to meet Christ, live Christ, and share Christ.
So the New Evangelization is about salvation, and salvation is about a restoration of what God originally intended. The fullness of this will only be realized in the afterlife, but in this world, our task is to make the world more reflective of what God intended. That happens as hearts are changed, and people are transformed into the image and likeness of God in which they were originally created.
John the Baptist was a great man, a great prophet, a great evangelizer, the very person who prepared the way for Jesus. But Jesus says something striking. “Amen, I say to you, among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.” (v.11). That’s you and I. Jesus has already come, we have accepted him as Savior and Lord, so we are privileged to be in the Kingdom, with the great prospect of entering into the eternal Kingdom of heaven.
But there is more. You and I, like John the Baptist, are privileged to be messengers of the good news, not just of the Messiah that was to come, but of the Savior who has already come. John prepared the way of the Lord. We too prepare the way of the Lord, as we help gather the strays into the sheepfold, eagerly awaiting the return of Jesus.
This is the work of the New Evangelization.
* * *
God bless you all.
“For to me life is Christ, and death is gain.” (Phil 1:21)