God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. – Paul’s bold statement in his letter to the Romans is a helpful reminder that God continues to be with us, pouring love into our hearts, guiding each of us through the Holy Spirit.
Through such faith, Jesus calls his disciples to go out from him to proclaim the Good News in the world. And how do they tell about this Good News?
Jesus says to them, “As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment.”
The Kingdom of Heaven is near – the signs of which: the sick are cured, dead raised, lepers cleansed and demons cast out. The sick, the dead & dying, the lepers, and those with demons are the outcasts of society. The poor and neglected, the forgotten. They are not the powerful movers and shakers. Jesus wanted everyone to taste the goodness of God and Jesus sends his disciples to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
And in this ministry that they were sent out to do, they are not to take advantage of it, no payment is part of it. They are following Jesus. Proclaiming the Good News for The Kingdom of Heaven has come near to the lost and suffering. But it is not always easy living out this calling.
A young priest had recently begun his first call. One day he visited an older priest, a retired pastor who had served as his mentor. The senior cleric welcomed him warmly and asked how things are going.
As they talked, the new pastor lamented the many demands made on the church's charity.
"I know we're supposed to help the poor, but these people are asking for help with a bus ticket or a utility bill or gas money or food. Is that really their story? The last thing they're likely to spend that money on is a bus ticket or a utility bill or gas or food. I'm not naïve. They'll probably spend it on something we shouldn't be supporting, something that I certainly don't support."
Finally, the young priest sighed, "It gets exhausting justifying who I'm going to help and why."
The older priest said nothing, letting his young colleague's words hang in the air. Then the older priest replied, "What business is it of yours to determine who gets help and who doesn't? Why exhaust yourself with that burden? You are a follower of Jesus Christ. Your task, therefore, is to share out of the wealth of God's abundance. Your work is to love others as God loves you. Your job is simply to give. Judgement is God's domain - and he's much better at it than you and I are."
Compassionate charity is at the heart of discipleship. But Jesus calls us to give and serve not according to some divinely-sanctioned measuring device or formula to determine what is "fair" and "justifiable" charity;
Dorothy Day put it this way – “The Gospel takes away our right forever, to discriminate between the undeserving and deserving poor.”
For the purpose of our giving to others is not to make us feel good about ourselves or superior to the poor and broken. Jesus calls us to give in a spirit of gratitude for the blessings we have received in our lives, to realize that whatever blessings we have received by God are meant to be shared. The good we do - healing, restoring, lifting up, forgiving - should not be statements of dogmatic conviction but prayers of humble gratitude to God who has loved us and blessed us abundantly and who has called us to give it away to others.
And sometimes, what we are to give from our abundance, may simply be the space and love for someone longing for acceptance and a place to be.
Once there was a struggling young Christian who felt she couldn’t share the truth about who she was and avoided intimacy with anyone she met in the church because she assumed straightaway that she would meet with rejection and exclusion. Eventually she found the courage to open her heart to a gentle companion, who simply said, ‘What you have told me is that you are a human being. I see that as cause for compassion, not for condemnation.’ Those words changed her life. From that moment on the young Christian found a freedom she’d never known, and resolved to spend her life having the liberating effect on others that her companion’s wisdom had had on her. She realized that there was something deeper than that others had rejected her. What was really going on was that she’d rejected herself – or at least a part of her that was a source of life and growth and hope. She’d been the builder that had rejected the stone. In devoting her life to liberating others who had known similar rejection, she turned the stone that she had rejected into the cornerstone. (Sam Wells)
Jesus, the cornerstone of our faith, the stone rejected by builders, came down to us to heal the broken, bring life to the dead, cast out demons of darkness, and bring back into the fold those who are lost or marginalized.
We likewise as followers of Jesus are called to do the same in our lives to reach out in love and “kindness, for everyone you meet is carrying a heavy burden…” (Rev. John Watson)
The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few.
What will you do today to proclaim the Good News?