Reflection for Monday, May 30, 2022: 7th Week of Easter.
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|In his wonderful 2013 apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium ("The Joy of the Gospel"), Pope Francis exhorted Catholics to "go forth and preach the Gospel to all: to all places, on all occasions, without hesitation, reluctance or fear. The joy of the Gospel is for all people: no one can be excluded" (EG 23). Today's first reading gives us first-hand insight into what this mission looked like for the apostolic church.|First, in keeping with his overall missionary spirit, Paul demonstrates a willingness to go out. Rather than stay in the known quantity of Corinth, he travels into the "interior of the country," and then moves down to Ephesus where he encounters an unknown group of disciples of John the Baptist. He embodies the "church on the move," going to where people are, rather than simply inviting them to come to you. Likewise, as Pope Francis has taught, the Church is called to "go forth" as a community of missionary disciples (EG 24), to be "out on the streets" rather than "clinging to its own security" (EG 49). |Second, for their part, the disciples of John the Baptist demonstrate a willingness to go deeper. They admit their ignorance concerning the baptism of the Holy Spirit. But rather than simply cling to their own partial truth, they listen to Paul, and ultimately agree to receive this new baptism in the name of Jesus. This reflects remarkable humility and an authentic willingness to grow. In turn, Paul's baptism in the name of Jesus offers these believers new gifts of the Holy Spirit they previously lacked. This story reminds us to live more deeply into our own baptisms, and to remember that the purpose of baptism is not simply the remission of sins, but also our regeneration as believers alive in Christ, strengthened and gifted by the Holy Spirit.|Third, Paul reflects a willingness to go forth to debate and dialogue with his opponents. He spends three months in the local Ephesus synagogue (reminding us too that Paul remained very much a Jew!). This is not evangelization by force, or evangelization by hashtag, or evangelization of the like-minded. And as the subsequent passage shows, it's not immediately effective. Paul ultimately leaves the synagogue and takes up residence in a nearby Greek lecture hall, and it takes another two years for the seeds of the Jesus Way to take root in the region. But Paul exemplifies a commitment to proclamation through dialogue, something our very polarized, divided communities could surely benefit from. As Pope Francis said in Evangelii Gaudium, and has repeated many times since, "evangelization also involves the path of dialogue" (EG 238). |May St. Paul and Pope Francis inspire all of us to do our own small part to evangelize in our corner(s) of the world, building up a culture of encounter through sharing the joy of the gospel.
University Ministry, Creighton University.
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