Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ Jesus, The month of February is dedicated to the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Let us ask Holy Family for the grace of renewed love for God and one another within families throughout the world! This Sunday we celebrate the 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time. I share with you a reflection on our mission to share the Truth of Jesus with others. I encourage you to reflect over this message a few times this week: “Spreading the Truth - The urgency and responsibility of taking Christ’s doctrine to all environments: As on so many occasions, Jesus rose early in the morning and went outside to the city to pray. The apostles found Him there and said to Him, Everyone is searching for You. And Our Lord answered them, Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out. (Mark 1:29-39) Christ’s mission is that of spreading the Gospel, of taking the Good News to the very ends of the earth, through the Apostles (Mark 3:14) and Christians of all times. This is the mission of the Church, which thus carries out Our Lord’s command: Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole of creation. (cf. Matt. 18:19-20) The Acts of the Apostles give many details of that first evangelization. On the day of Pentecost itself, St. Peter preaches the divinity of Jesus Christ, His redeeming Death, and His glorious Resurrection. (cf. Acts 2:38) St. Paul, quoting the Prophet Isaiah, exclaims enthusiastically, How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the Good News! (Rom. 10:15; Is. 52:7) The Second Reading of the Holy Mass tells us of the joyful responsibility of announcing the Truth that saves: If I preach the Gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel! (1 Cor. 9:16) Using the words of St. Peter, the Church has often reminded the faithful that God calls them to make use of every opportunity to spread Christ’s doctrine everywhere. (cf. Second Vatican Council, Apostolicam Actuositatem, 6) St. John Chrysostom anticipated all the possible excuses for not carrying out this most gratifying obligation. There is, he wrote, nothing colder than a Christian who is unconcerned about the salvation of others… Do not say „I am unable to help them‟, for if you are truly a Christian it is impossible for you to make such an admission. The properties of natural things cannot be denied them: the same thing happens with this affirmation, for it is in the nature of a Christian to act in this way… It is easier for the sun to fail to give its light or its heat than for a Christian to cease to give light and warmth; it would be easier for light to be darkness. Do not say that the thing is impossible; what is impossible is the opposite… if we order our conduct aright, everything else will follow as a natural consequence. The light of Christians cannot be hidden; a light that shines so brightly cannot be concealed. (St. John Chrysostom, Homilies on the Acts of the Apostles, 20) Let us ask ourselves whether, in our own environment, in the place where we live and work, we are being true transmitters of the Faith; whether we bring our friends to receive the Sacraments more frequently. Let us examine ourselves as to whether we feel the urgency of the apostolate as one of the demands of our vocation; whether we feel the same responsibility as those first Christians did, because the need today is no less great… For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel! Apostolate and proselytism stem from our conviction that we possess the Truth - the only Truth that can save: The apostolate and the proselytism that we carry out, and that attract people to the Faith or to a greater dedication to God, stem from the conviction that we possess Truth and Love. We possess the Truth that saves and the only Love that can assuage the anxieties of the heart, which ever remains unsatisfied. When this certainty is lost, we can see no point in spreading the Faith. Then, even if we were in a Christian environment, we might start doubting whether we could exert any influence. We might despair of non-Christians ever giving their support to a just law, a law that happens to be in accord with God’s Will. We would also fail to see any sense in taking Christ’s teaching to other lands where the Faith has not yet become firmly rooted. In any case, the apostolic mission would become merely social action favoring the material advancement of those countries. We would be forgetting the most valuable treasure we can possibly give them - Faith in Jesus Christ and the life of grace… We would be Christians whose Faith had grown weak, and we would have forgotten, perhaps, that Truth is all of a piece; we would have failed to remember that it makes men and nations more human, that it opens up the way to Heaven. It is important that the Faith should lead us to propose social works, but the world cannot be satisfied simply with social reformers. It needs saints. Holiness is not the privilege of a few; it is a gift offered to all… If we doubt this it means we do not fully understand Christ‟s intentions. (St. John Paul II, Address to Catholic Educators, 12 November 1987) It means that we are leaving out the essential part of His message.
Faith is Truth, and gives light to our reason and preserves it from error. It heals the wounds of original sin and allays the propensity to stray from the way which that primal catastrophe bestowed upon us. It is from this that the certainty of the Christian comes, not only in what refers strictly to the Faith, but to all those matters connected with it – the origin of the world and of life, the unquestionable dignity of the human person, the importance of the family... Faith is the light which enlightens a man’s path. This leads us, St. Paul VI teaches, to have a dogmatic attitude, certainly, which means it is not founded on our own knowledge, but on the Word of God… This attitude of ours does not fill us with pride because we are the fortunate and exclusive possessors of the Truth, but it makes us strong and gives us the courage to defend it. It make us love to spread it. St. Augustine reminds us of this:„sine superbia de Veritate praesumite‟ - without conceit be proud of the Truth. (St. Paul VI, Address, 4 August 1965)
It is an immense gift to have received the true Faith, but at the same time it is a huge responsibility. The apostolic zeal of the Christian who is aware of the treasure he has received is not fanaticism It is love for Truth; a manifestation of living Faith; consistency between one’s thoughts and one’s life. Proselytism in the noble and true sense of the word does not in any way mean attracting people through deceit or violence, but is the effort of an apostle to make Christ known, along with His call to all men. It is to want souls to recognize the richness that God has revealed, and for them to be saved. It is to want them to receive the vocation to a full dedication to God, if this is God’s Will. This proselytism is one of the noblest tasks that God has entrusted to us. Fidelity to the teaching we have to transmit: In this endeavor of ours to spread the Faith, whilst we treat everybody with respect and consideration, it is useless to transmit mere half-truths for fear that the fullness of Truth and the demands of an authentic Christian life may clash with ways of thinking currently in fashion, and with the easy-going attitude of so many people. There can be no half-measures where Truth is concerned, and Love which is prepared to make sacrifices cannot admit of settling for less or be the object of compromise. The condition for all apostolate is fidelity to doctrine, even though in some cases it may be difficult to fulfill this condition and even call for behavior which is heroic or at least filled with fortitude. We cannot omit themes such as generosity when it comes to having a large family, or the demands of social justice, or a full dedication to God when He calls someone to follow Him… We cannot expect to please everybody by diluting the claims of the Gospel so as to satisfy conventional wisdom… We speak, St. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, not to please men, but to please God. (1 Thess. 2:3-4) Claiming to make the Gospel easy, keeping quiet about (or watering down) the mysteries we are to believe and the norms of conduct by which we are to live, is not the way to go about obeying Christ’s command. No one has preached, or ever will preach the Gospel with greater credibility, energy or attractiveness than Jesus, and even then there were those who did not follow Him faithfully. Neither can we forget that today, as always, we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God. (1 Cor. 1:23-24) Nevertheless, we must always make an effort to adapt ourselves to the capacity and circumstances of the person we want to take to Christ, just as He taught us throughout the Gospels that He made accessible to everyone. Fidelity to Christ leads us to transmit faithfully and effectively what we have received. Today, just as in the days of the first Christians, when the evangelization of Europe and of the whole world was beginning, we must announce to our friends and acquaintance, to our colleagues… the Good News of Divine Mercy, the joy of following Christ very closely in the midst of our daily occupations. That announcement brings with it the need to change one’s life, to do penance, to renounce self, to be detached from material things, to be chaste, to seek God’s forgiveness with humility, to correspond with what He has wanted from each of us from all eternity.
Our concern that many should follow Christ should encourage us to live charity better with everyone, to find more ways of bringing them as soon as possible to God Who is waiting for them. For the love of Christ urges us on (2 Cor. 5:14). This was the moving force of St. Paul’s untiring apostolic activity, and it will be what moves us also. Love for God will lead us to feel the urgency of the apostolate, and not to waste any opportunity that arises. Moreover, in many circumstances we will be the ones to provoke those opportunities which would never occur otherwise. Everyone is searching for You… The world hungers and thirsts for God. So, as well as charity, hope. Our friends and acquaintances, including those who are furthest away, also need and want God, although often they do not show this. More importantly still, God is searching for them. Let us ask Our Lady to give us the same concern for the apostolate and proselytism as the Apostles and the first Christians had.” (From: In Conversation with God by Francis Fernandez) Through the intercession of Mary, Virgin most Powerful, St. Joseph, and St. Columbkill, may we grow in the practice of lovingly sharing our Catholic Faith with others! In Christ through Mary, Fr. Kasel