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(Part 35)


April 26, 2014

Today’s readings:
Acts 4:13-21
Mark 16:9-15

We are commissioned by Jesus to proclaim the gospel. “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.” (Mk 16:15). This is one of the most important tasks in the world, as it involves the salvation of souls. If so, then those Jesus sends he will also empower. We are thus empowered to witness.

We. All of us. The original apostles (those sent), Peter and John, were seen by the Sanhedrin “to be uneducated, ordinary men” (Acts 4:13b). Mary Magdalene, to whom Jesus appeared first, was a woman “out of whom he had driven seven demons” (Mk 16:9) but was used by him to go and tell his companions that he was alive. Jesus then appeared to two anonymous disciples who were “walking along on their way to the country” (Mk 16:12), and they returned to Jerusalem to tell the others that he had risen.

Are you ordinary? Are you uneducated? Have you lived a bad life before? Are you just one of those nondescript followers of Jesus? You qualify! As has been said, God does not call the qualified, but qualifies the called.

So what prevents us from proclaiming the gospel in the power of the Spirit?

First is unbelief. The disciples did not believe Mary Magdalene nor the two disciples from Emmaus. Jesus “appeared to them and rebuked them for their unbelief” (Mk 16:14). Now of course we do believe that Jesus resurrected. For us, the challenge is to believe that we are called and that we are empowered. Can God truly use me, nobody that I am? Can I really call upon the power of God, sinner that I am?

A second obstacle is hardness of heart. Jesus also rebuked them for “hardness of heart” (Mk 16:14). A hard heart is one not touched by the mercy of God, and thus unwilling to impart that mercy to others, especially in the form of helping bring souls back to God. We might have resentments, anger, vindictiveness, or even self-righteousness. We might even be a Jonah, already proclaiming repentance but preferring sinners to be punished and not really wanting them to repent and be restored to God.

A third obstacle is being intimidated not to speak. We are called to proclaim the gospel, and so speak we must. But there are those intimidated from doing so.

  • By the secular environment. God is often no longer in the workplace or in social circles. Many are even antagonistic to authentic faith.
  • By their peers. They may ridicule or at least tease those who profess their faith.
  • By dissidents in the Church. Even priests in the western world are intimidated from proclaiming the full gospel during homilies, including the gospel of life, because liberal parishioners would accuse them of bigotry or even hate speech.
  • By those in authority in government or private business. Employees are prevented from even silently proclaiming their faith, such as wearing crosses. Businesses are threatened with boycott by the homosexualist lobby for standing up for traditional marriage.

The Sanhedrin tried the same thing with the apostles. “So they called them back and ordered them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus.” (Acts 4:18). There was one purpose, that the good news “may not be spread any further among the people” (Acts 4:17a). But the apostles would not be intimidated or dissuaded. Peter and John boldly replied, “Whether it is right in the sight of God for us to obey you rather than God, you be the judges.” (Acts 4:19). Jesus tells us to proclaim the gospel; the world tells us not to do so. Whom do we obey?

It should be no contest. We obey no one else but God. And so we must live the Great Commission. We share Christ with all. We put our all into this work, even as we are oppressed and persecuted. It must become our lifestyle. “It is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:20).

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