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(Part 24)


January 16, 2013
Today’s gospel: Mark 1:29-39

The New Evangelization requires a re-focus on what is the essential and foundational mission of the Church. Evangelization itself is not new, being almost 2,000 years old, with the same message of salvation in Jesus. But after 2,000 years, after the Church has grown tremendously (Christians make up 1/3 of world population), Christians today are doing many things but not necessarily what is the most basic. Christians today do many good things but miss out on the essence of Christian mission.

Christians today do a massive work with the poor. Christians today oppose unjust governments and try to take temporal power in order to make positive changes. Christians today work hard to make nations First World in order to eliminate poverty. However, Jesus did not come to liberate the poor from material bondage (though he did come to bring good news to the poor); he is not a social worker. Jesus did not come to achieve political power and governance (though he is the King of kings); he is not a political revolutionary. Jesus did not come to make the poor rich (in fact he told soldiers to be satisfied with their wages); he is not an economic manager. What he did during his public ministry was “he went into their synagogues, preaching and driving out demons throughout the whole of Galilee.” (Mk 1:39).

Jesus preached the good news of the kingdom of God. He evangelized. This was the reason why the Father sent him. “Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose have I come.” (Mk 1:38). Together with this, he drove out demons. Evangelization involves us in spiritual warfare. We come against the forces of the enemy, who is totally against God and God’s plan for humanity, and who is the one who enslaves God’s people.

Jesus “cured many who were sick with various diseases, and he drove out many demons” (Mk 1:34a). Serious illness is a disorder from God’s natural order, where we are created in His image and likeness and are to enjoy the fullness of life in Him. It ultimately is the result of sin (our own or those of others that affect us), a world that has abandoned God’s wonderful plan (thus wreaking havoc on nature and natural God-designed relationships), and the enslaving action of the devil. The work of demons manifests itself in serious illnesses.

How about the poor? One can live a wonderful life in Christ despite material poverty. In fact, often those who are far from God are the rich. Thus, while Jesus ordered his disciples to preach the gospel to every creature, he said that the poor will always be with us. Does that mean God is not concerned about poverty? He is, and in fact God’s covenant includes prosperity as a basic aspect. But God looks to us to provide for the needs of the poor. If we share our resources, then there will be no one in need, as the first Christian community after Pentecost already experienced.

How about unjust or oppressive governments and taking political power (supposedly in order to do good)? Jesus had all the power and could have called on more than twelve legions of angels to protect him but he did not. Rather he emptied himself and took the form of a slave. Paul, living under the Roman government oppressing Christians, would later instruct Christians to be subordinate to government.

How about becoming First World? Well, the so-called First World nations are now those very far from God, while those in developing nations, those even who are oppressed, are the most committed Christians around. Indeed, Timothy would later caution Christians against wanting to be rich, as the love of money is the root of all evils.

This is not to say that Christians should not help the poor or work for good political governance or strive to better themselves economically. We should do so. We should animate the temporal order. We should bring God’s righteousness and justice into every aspect of life in this world. We should look to enjoying the bounty of what God has provided in this world. But we should not neglect our basic mission, that of evangelization. Or worse, we should not help the poor or work for good government or strive for economic well-being while violating the very faith we profess. This happens for example when Christians agree and support reproductive health in their desire to help the poor, or when Christians resort to politicking or corruption in order to take political power, or when Christians steal or defraud or be greedy in order to have more money.

If we are focused on what is most essential, then everything else should fall into place. When we neglect what is most essential, then whatever good we desire or try to do could easily lead us astray, and we end up opposing Christ and his mission. Our basic work is spiritual, not social, political or economic.

When Jesus drove out demons, he did not permit them to speak because they knew him (Mk 1:34b). Jesus did not want them to announce his lordship because his time had not yet come. But the demons “knew him.” How many Christians today really know Jesus? How many have a deep, intimate, personal relationship with him? How many know what Jesus calls them to do­to love God with their whole being, to love their neighbor as themselves, and to be perfect as the heavenly Father is perfect? How many realize the importance of evangelization to the heart of Jesus? Unfortunately, many know about Jesus, and go about working in his name, but miss out on what is most important to him.

Jesus did not permit the demons to speak. But Jesus not only permits us to speak, but he commands and commissions us to speak. We are to preach about the kingdom of God. We are to proclaim the good news of salvation in Jesus. We are to assault the kingdom of darkness.

This is what the New Evangelization is all about.

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