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(Part 148)


August 11, 2015

Today’s readings:
Deuteronomy 31:1-8
Deuteronomy 32:3-12
Matthew 18:1-14

We are called to the New Evangelization. One motivation for the New Evangelization is to bring back the lost sheep. Unfortunately there are lots of them. God wants them back in the fold. “What is your opinion? If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray, will he not leave the ninety-nine in the hills and go in search of the stray?” (Mt 18:12). But the problem is worse. The lost is not the one but the ninety-nine.

God sent His very own Son Jesus to the cross in order to win for us our salvation. “For the Son of Man has come to save what was lost” (Mt 18:11). God took this extraordinary and astounding course because “it is not the will of your heavenly Father that one of these little ones be lost.” (Mt 18:14). So you can see how precious we all are to God. Now especially heartrending is the situation of those who were already saved, became Christians, and then have now lost their way. Again, God wants them back.

And so we are called to the New Evangelization. A primary focus of this is bringing back lapsed or nominal or non-practicing Catholics. As such, those of us who are still in the sheepfold are tasked with bringing the lost sheep back. This is through the work of evangelization and mission. We are commissioned, we are sent forth. How have we responded?

Moses talks of degenerate, twisted, crooked, foolish and unwise people. “Yet his degenerate children have treated him basely, a twisted and crooked generation! Is this how you repay the Lord, so foolish and unwise a people? Is he not your father who begot you, the one who made and established you?” (Dt 32:5-6). In what ways are we such children?

  • We have turned our backs on the Lord and His ways, and have embraced the world and its ways.
  • We have not fully responded to the commission to proclaim the gospel to the ends of the earth.
  • We have remained in our comfort zones even as God is waiting on us to bring back the lost sheep.
  • We have been unfaithful to our covenant, which greatly weakens the body and negatively impacts on its mission.
  • We have been rebellious and have contributed to dissent and disunity in the body, thus holding it back from vigorously pursuing its vision.

So you see that the lost sheep are not only those who have left the Church but also those who are still in the Church but are not doing the work of the Church. So you can grasp the reality that the lost sheep do indeed make up 99% of the Church.

What are we to do? “Remember the days of old, consider the years of generations past.” (Dt 32:7a). In particular, look to what happened almost 2,000 years ago on the day of Pentecost and the growth of the early Church. The disciples were commissioned, they obeyed, they gave their all, and the Church grew tremendously.

Today the world is once again in deep darkness. Today the human forces being used by the evil one are very powerful and well-entrenched. Thus the work of evangelization is even more urgent. The good news is that today, it is the same God at work. It is the same God who desires His children to return to Him. It is the same God who equips and empowers those who would go forth to witness to Jesus. It is the same God who directed His people to take the promised land. “It is the Lord, your God, who will cross before you; he will destroy these nations before you, that you may dispossess them.” (Dt 31:3a).

As such, we must go forth with boldness and determination. “Be strong and steadfast; have no fear or dread of them, for it is the Lord, your God, who marches with you; he will never fail you or forsake you.” (Dt 31:6). With God with us, who can be against us? Looking at the strong enemy forces, we look to David defeating Goliath, or to Gideon defeating Midian. Jesus has already won the victory.

Just as Moses instructed Joshua, so we too who are servant leaders are instructed: “Be strong and steadfast, .... It is the Lord who goes before you; he will be with you and will never fail you or forsake you. So do not fear or be dismayed.” (Dt 31:7b,8). Be not afraid. Be not intimidated. Be not distressed by seeming failures. Just go forth with your battle cry: “For I will proclaim the name of the Lord” (Dt 32:3a).

When the lost sheep are brought back, there will be great rejoicing in heaven. “And if he finds it, amen, I say to you, he rejoices more over it then over the ninety-nine that did not stray.” (Mt 18:13). But since the ninety-nine have strayed, then imagine the greater joy of our Father in heaven when they are brought back.

Onward to the New Evangelization!

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