As I write this, we are in the midst of the Easter season, rejoicing in the joy that the resurrection of Jesus brings to
us all. We have travelled the road with Jesus through Lent and Holy Week, sharing with Jesus as he has moved from Galilee through to Judea and the entry to Jerusalem on to Calvary and finally the empty tomb. By the time you read this, we will be coming to the end of the earthly story of Jesus, encapsulated in the ending of Matthew’s Gospel, where Jesus appears to his disciples, commanding them to take his Gospel to the ends of the earth, with the promise to be with them always, to the end of the age. If the passion and resurrection of Jesus were to be interpreted in the form of a theatre play, this passage would be the final scene of the last act!
I remember growing up being entranced with the magicians who appeared on our TV screens – the best being David Nixon. I loved watching him in his gentle way leaving us bemused by his sleight of hand, leaving us as puzzled as we were when the trick was in progress. Well, here we see Jesus doing the perfect Houdini act! A few sentences, then – pffft – he disappears in a puff of clouds, leaving the remaining actors somewhat dumbfounded and disorientated. The script seems to have abruptly stopped!
And now, what do they do? What do they say next? What do we do? What will we say next?
The script has now to be written by the disciples of Jesus. They are commanded to make disciples. The word disciple means to learn with the implication of a thought accompanied by an endeavour.
It denotes one who follows someone’s teaching. It implies the idea of making others ‘active and participating learners.’
This is a very heavy burden. Just ask any teacher! What’s the best way to make people want to become
learners, disciples? Is it through highly emotional stadium-filled preaching? Is it by going door-to-door? Is it through bumper stickers? On a Sunday morning you can tune into any number of American God channels all with their intent on convincing people to become disciples. Is this your method of evangelization as well?
People have organized crusades and killed others, supposedly for the sake of evangelism and for the love of
God. Out-of-control evangelism has resulted in people being burned at the stake or being tortured. Is evangelism
not a matter of the heart, rather than a tool of oppression?
I believe in the evangelisation method of Francis of Assisi: ‘Everywhere you go preach the gospel. Use words if
necessary.’ Evangelization isn’t so much a matter of words, but most important, of deeds. It’s not sufficient to ‘feel’
love for God. Love is not just a feeling. Love is also a daily reality, a mathematical demonstration! Love needs not just ‘to be said,’ it also needs to ‘be done.’ On the road, the Levite spoke about his love for God, but the Good
Samaritan showed it. One Easter Sunday, Pope John XXIII went to visit a prison. It was the first time in 90 years that a pope had done so. He started his homily be saying, ‘Since you could not come to me, so I have come to you.’ That is true evangelism! Being a disciple of God is like being in court daily; you need to prove your case; your word is not sufficient.
What a heavy burden of proof on someone’s shoulders!
How can someone have the strength to prove this on a daily basis? Maybe Jesus knew that and that’s why he said,
‘Remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’ God also made the same promise to Joshua: ‘As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you.’ Before Jesus’ birth, the angel said that his name would be Immanuel – God with us. Are we aware of this constant presence?
What do we do each day to be aware of his presence? Do we spend time with God each day? Do we, like Brother
Laurence, ‘practice the presence of God?’ Do we spend time in solitude and in silence waiting for God to speak to
us? Do we give God a chance to fulfil God’s promise to us, ‘Remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’ Jesus gave us a very difficult task. Our actions are our tools; they are our true words. His word is his daily presence with us.