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(Part 40)


April 17, 2013

Today’s readings:
Acts 8:1-8
Psalm 66:1-7
John 6:35-40

Philip went to the city of Samaria to evangelize. There were many possessed people and many paralyzed and crippled people (Acts 8:7). What we have is a picture of a city infested by evil, with the attendant effects of demon possession and crippling illnesses. No wonder that when Stephen expelled the unclean spirits and cured the crippled people, “there was great joy in that city.” (Acts 8:8).

Is this not the situation in the world today? Has not the world been overwhelmed by a tsunami of evil? Is not the evil one seemingly reigning supreme? Are not very many people in darkness, depression and destitution of spirit?

What needs to happen? People need to meet Christ, then to start living in him. In Jesus all our needs are met. “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.” (Jn 6:35).

But people cannot meet Christ unless there are those who share Christ. We need to “sing of his glorious name” (Ps 66:2b). We do this in season and out of season. We do this even when we expect to be opposed and persecuted. If God allows this, there is a divine purpose. After the execution of Stephen, “there broke out a severe persecution of the church in Jerusalem” (Acts 8:1b). What was one consequence? “All were scattered throughout the countryside of Judea and Samaria” (Acts 8:1c). They had to flee their homes, their familiar surroundings, their livelihood. But what happened? “Now those who had been scattered went about preaching the word.” (Acts 8:4). Despite their difficulties and displacement, they focused on sharing Christ. Thus the work expanded. From Jerusalem the work had now spread to Judea and Samaria, and thence to the ends of the earth.

Many nations have large diasporas, like the Filipinos, Indians, Vietnamese, Nigerians, etc. They had to leave home and homeland, often their families, in order to seek livelihood. That is tragic. But God has also used these displaced Catholics to help revive parishes in the developed nations, which are already post-Christian. The good that these Catholics are doing is immeasurable!

Today there is growing persecution of the Church, both in secular western nations and fundamentalist Islamist nations. It is just like then. “Saul, meanwhile, was trying to destroy the church” (Acts 8:3a). The evil one wants nothing less than to destroy what is of God. This is a time of great challenge, but also a time of great opportunity for the New Evangelization. Catholics should not only rise to defend the faith, but surge forward to proclaim the faith.

In this, we need to be mindful of the God whom we serve, of the God who sends us forth to evangelize. We need to confidently be able to say: “How awesome your deeds! Before your great strength your enemies cringe.” (Ps 66:3). God is all-powerful. God is victorious. God sends us forth to the ends of the earth to establish His dominion. “His eyes are fixed upon the nations.” (Ps 66:7b). We need to obey His marching orders. “Let no rebel rise to challenge!” (Ps 66:7c).

To do God’s awesome work, we need to have the faith that works wonders. We need to BE.LI.EV.E! What is the basis of such faith? Well, we know God, and we know His works. “Come and see the works of God, awesome in deeds before the children of Adam.” (Ps 66:5). Time and again God has worked His miracles, working in the lives of His people. “He changed the sea to dry land; through the river they passed on foot.” (Ps 66:6a). It is He who had dominion over all, in heaven and on earth. God “rules by his might forever” (Ps 66:7a).

So God sends us forth to do His awesome work. In this God provides whatever we need. We in fact are empowered by His Spirit. We just need to BE.LI.EV.E, and we are assured, “whoever believes in me will never thirst.” (Jn 6:35c).

Where we are now and what we are called to do is God’s will. We are to share Christ so that those who accept him may be saved. “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him on the last day.” (Jn 6:40). If we BE.LI.EV., then we will E -- enter into eternal life.

Let us be about the work of the New Evangelization. We look to that time, both here on earth and certainly in heaven, when we can face our God with our heads held high and say, “All the earth falls in worship before you; they sing of you, sing of your name!” (Ps 66:4).

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