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(Part 253)


December 10, 2019

Today’s readings:
Isaiah 40:1-11
Psalm 96:1-3,10-13
Matthew 18:12-14

What is the main thrust of the New Evangelization? It is to bring back the lost sheep of our Church. Jesus tells the parable of the lost sheep, where one of 99 sheep is lost and the man leaves the 99 in order to search for the one (Mt 18:12). This is a parable about God’s mercy, wherein God wants no one of His flock to be lost (Mt 18:14). But today, many Catholics are lost. In fact, it is not one out of 100 but 99 out of 100 that are lost. That is staggering, and deeply distressing.

This reality plays out in the world, where we see ever deepening darkness and evil. Such evil is manifested in immorality, lawlessness, corruption, poverty, war. God raised His Church in the world, but that Church is no longer fully light and leaven in the world. Her own sheep have been scattered. God had raised Israel, but she also transgressed. But God continues to gather His people to Himself, and to reestablish His dominion in the world. “Comfort, give comfort to my people, says your God. Speak to the heart of Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her service[1] has ended, that her guilt is expiated, that she has received from the hand of the Lord double for all her sins.” (Is 40:1-2).

The prophet is told to proclaim Israel’s liberation and restoration. This is also our prophetic work. We are to proclaim the good news of salvation in Jesus, and help bring restoration to God’s people, bringing them back to the Church and a vibrant life in Christ. “Go up onto a high mountain, Zion, herald of good news! Cry out at the top of your voice, Jerusalem, herald of good news! …. Say to the cities of Judah: here is your God!” (Is 40:9a,c).

Just as the shepherd searched for the one lost sheep, Jesus the Good Shepherd pursues and brings back lost and lapsed Catholics. “Like a shepherd he feeds his flock; in his arms he gathers the lambs, carrying them in his bosom, leading the ewes with care.” (Is 40:11). And just as the man greatly rejoiced when he found the lost sheep (Mt 18:13), so too will all of creation, both in the heavens and on earth, rejoice when God’s people are restored to the bosom of Christ and his Church. “Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice; let the sea and what fills it resound; let the plains be joyful and all that is in them. Then let all the trees of the forest rejoice before the Lord who comes, who comes to govern the earth, to govern the world with justice and the peoples with faithfulness.” (Ps 96:11-13).

Our work of evangelization is crucial. There are many to be sought and brought back. Thus this work needs to be rapid, massive and worldwide. We are to “proclaim his salvation day after day.” (Ps 96:2b). We are to reach every nation in the world. “Tell his glory among the nations; among all peoples, his marvelous deeds.” (Ps 96:3). We are to reach all peoples, to the very ends of the earth, as we “declare among the nations: The Lord is king.” (Ps 96:10a).

We are called to be evangelizers, missionaries, prophets and warriors. In the dark wasteland of the world today, we help bring the light and life of Christ. “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord! Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!” (Is 40:3). We do our work with conviction, zeal and perseverance. And because this is divine work, with Jesus himself leading us and accompanied and empowered by the Holy Spirit, we must not be afraid. “Cry out, do not fear!” (Is 40:9b).

So go forth, holy warriors. “A voice says, ‘Proclaim!’” (Is 40:6a).

* * *

[1] That is, servitude and exile in Babylon.

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