Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
Readings: 2MC 7:1-2, 9-14; PS 17:1, 5-6, 8, 15;2 THES 2:16-3:5; LK 20:27-38 or LK 20:27, 34-38
Jesus proclaimed, served, and witnessed to the Reign of God. He proclaimed it through his parables, served it through his actions of healing and forgiveness, and witnessed to it through his behavior, particularly in table fellowship with the marginalized. These were all counter-cultural actions. By our baptism, we are to continue this mission of Jesus, with and without words, in both small and large ways.
In the first reading from 2 Maccabees, the seven brothers with their mother did this in a "large way" by submitting to torture and death rather than breaking the laws of their faith. But normally we witness to God's Reign in equally important "small ways" on a day-to-day basis and often without words.
The document of Evangelii Nuntiandi by Paul VI states that the first sign of God's Reign "is the witness of an authentically Christian life" (41). The pope described this in a beautiful way:
"Take a Christian or a handful of Christians who, in the midst of their own community, show their capacity for understanding and acceptance, their sharing of life and destiny with other people, their solidarity with the efforts of all for whatever is noble and good. Let us suppose that, in addition, they radiate in an altogether simple and unaffected way their faith in values that go beyond current values, and their hope in something that is not seen and that one would not dare to imagine. Through this wordless witness these Christians stir up irresistible questions in the hearts of those who see how they live: Why are they like this? Why do they live in this way? What or who is it that inspires them? Why are they in our midst? Such a witness is already a silent proclamation of the Good news and a very powerful and effective one" (21).
Such a scenario reminds us of the early Christians in the Roman Empire, gathering in their homes to celebrate the Eucharist, sharing their Christian faith and values in quiet conversations in the marketplace, respecting the dignity of women and the unborn, and taking care of the medical needs of others. After seeing their lifestyle, many people were struck by how the Christians loved one another.
How can we do the same? By listening to someone's worries, inviting a new person or family in our neighborhood or building to share a meal, or by offering someone a helping hand. This may stir up a question in them like, "What or who is it that inspires and motivates them?" We of course cannot determine their response. Mother Teresa of Calcutta has reminded us that our primary goal is to be faithful, not successful. And handing everything over to God's spirit stirring within everyone.
In these ways, our lives reflect the overflowing life and love of the Reign of a God, "who is not God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive" (Lk 20:38). And the blessing of Paul for the Thessalonian community, from our second reading, is encouraging for us as well : "May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the endurance of Christ" (2 Thess. 3:5).
Roger Schroeder, SVD
Professor of Intercultural Studies and Ministry
Bishop Francis X. Ford, MM, Chair of Catholic Missiology
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