Homily for the readings of Sept. 10, Friday of the XXIII week in ordinary time, year II
Faith in Jesus Christ, and the salvation that He gives us, is an odd sort of gift: we need to give it away if we want to keep it.
To begin with, there is the parable of the talents: those who received assets from their master and multiplied them, received more in return; those who kept the assets to themselves, lost them completely. Our faith is that sort of asset. Then, there is Christ’s command towards the end of each of the Gospels, to “go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel” (Mark 16:15) – a command given to all Christians through the apostles.
St Paul was well aware of the need to spread the Gospel if he wanted to partake of its fruit. In the first reading, he says, “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!” He goes to great lengths to help as many people as possible to believe in Christ, and says, “All this I do for the sake of the Gospel, so that I too may have a share it it. […] for fear that, having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified”.
Although he speaks of an obligation “imposed” on him, I think we also understand that the need to spread the Gospel is conditional. We are free not to do so, but it is the necessary condition for spending our eternity with God, which is what we all want. As the psalm says today, “my soul yearns and pines for the courts of the Lord. My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.”
So, in order to be truly happy, we need to share the Good News of our redemption with others. Not everyone is called to travel to foreign lands and preach as missionaries; there is plenty of need in our own families and friends. It’s not necessary for us to be preachy either. The most basic form of evangelization to which we are all called is to pray for others and live the Gospel coherently in our own lives. More is added to that according to our state in life – raising children, dealing with other people in the workplace, or working directly to evangelize by helping out in parish or diocesan programs.
But living the faith well always comes first. That’s what Jesus emphasizes in the Gospel reading today: we cannot help others to be good Christians if we ourselves are not. We can only give what we ourselves have.
May the Lord help us all to keep before our eyes that imperishable crown, that priceless prize that moved St Paul to seek God tirelessly and to make himself “a slave of all in order to win over [for Christ] as many as possible.”