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FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL
 

FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL

ON EVANGELIZATION AND MISSION
(Part 101)

COMMISSIONED TO PREACH THE GOSPEL – 5


April 26, 2019

Today’s readings:
Acts 4:1-12
Psalm 118:1-2, 4, 22-24, 25-27
John 21:1-14

We are commissioned to preach the gospel of salvation in Jesus. Why? So that people will be saved, be restored to God the Father, and be able to enter heaven. And there is only one way for this to happen. It is by, in and through Jesus. “There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved.” (Acts 4:12).

Jesus is the Savior. He won salvation for us through the cross. When we accept him as Savior and Lord, we are saved. We in turn are to work for the salvation of others, through the work of evangelization. And so it was that on the evening of his resurrection, Jesus appeared to the apostles and commissioned them. “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” (Jn 20:21b). They were to do divine work,continuing after Jesus, according to God’s intent.

Then, one week later, Jesus again appeared to the apostles (this time with Thomas there). With Thomas’ profession of faith, Jesus said, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” (Jn 20:29). When the gospel is preached to those who have not actually seen the risen Lord and they believe, then they are blessed, as they will be saved. So the work of evangelization is divine work that brings blessing to people. The ultimate blessing is salvation. We his disciples are privileged to be instruments of such blessing.

So why were Peter and the others fishing, not for men but for fish? “I am going fishing.” (Jn 21:3). They had already been commissioned (Jn 20:21,23), they had already been given the Spirit (Jn 20:22), and Jesus had already appeared to them twice. They had been taught and trained by Jesus for up to three years, they had already gone on practicum and were successful against Satan, so what was keeping them from going all-out to be fishers of men?

Whatever the reason, “Jesus revealed himself again to his disciples at the Sea of Tiberias.” (Jn 21:1). “This was now the third time Jesus was revealed to his disciples after being raised from the dead.” (Jn 21:14). Jesus needed to intensify their faith, to make sure theirs was not just emotional euphoria because of their seeing him alive. So his third appearance has a number of significant aspects for our instruction.

First, we need to realize that apart from his grace and power, apart from working according to his ways, apart from strictly abiding by his instructions, we can do nothing. They had fished “but that night they caught nothing.” (Jn 21:3b). Jesus told them to cast the net over the right side and they caught a great number of fish (Jn 21:6).

Second, we may know about Christ but we might not really know him. “Jesus was standing on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.” (Jn 21:4). Jesus is so near and yet so far. This is the situation of 99 of the 100 sheep, who are lost, lapsed or just cultural Christians. Many of them are in effect baptized pagans.

Third, the harvest is rich, if we will only follow Jesus’ instructions on the proclamation of the gospel. “So he said to them, ‘Cast the net over the right side of the boat and you will find something.’ So they cast it, and were not able to pull it in because of the number of fish.” (Jn 21:6). The harvest is rich, because it is God’s own work, and God’s intent is that everyone be saved, but unfortunately the laborers are few, and even the few might not be that zealous. Our Church, which is missionary, is today focused on many things other than mission.

Fourth, all disciples of Jesus can and should participate in the work of evangelization. They do not have to be missionaries who would go off to foreign lands (they can do that as well), but they evangelize in the normal, day-to-day circumstances of their lives. The disciples “were not far from shore, only about a hundred yards” (Jn 21:8b). Those we are to evangelize are our closest relatives, our neighbors, our friends, our co-workers, and the like.

Fifth, the work of evangelization is to be done to the ends of the earth. “So Simon Peter went over and dragged the net ashore full of one hundred fifty-three large fish.” (Jn 21:11a). St Jerome claims that Greek zoologists catalogued 153 species of fish. So the catch of the apostles signified the universal mission of the Church.

Sixth, the task is difficult, and there will be trials, suffering, persecution and pain. But the Lord is there to sustain and strengthen us always. “Even though there were so many, the net was not torn.” (Jn 21:11b). Doing the Lord’s work, even as it is rapid, massive and worldwide, should not wear us down. We must endure and persevere.

Seventh, a major part of the Lord’s provision of grace and strength is the Eucharist. “Jesus came over and took the bread and gave it to them” (Jn 21:13). We receive the Bread of Life each and every week, and hopefully each and every day. Thus are we assured of bountiful grace and blessing for our lives, our families and our mission.

Many Catholics today do not really know Jesus. If they do not not know him, having never really met him and entered into a personal relationship with him, then how can they live his way of life? Many Catholics go through the motions, even reception of Holy Communion, but they might as well ask of Jesus, “Who are you?” (Jn 21:12b). Let that not be so. Let us proclaim the gospel, let us share Christ, so that Catholics can really meet Christ and live Christ, as he reveals himself to them. Let it then be said that “they realized it was the Lord.” (Jn 21:12c).

Let the prayer of all evangelizers be: “Lord, grant salvation!” (Ps 118:25a). As an instrument of God’s divine work, let it be proclaimed: “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” (Ps 118:26a).

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