WEEK 14 – 04
Go and Announce the Good News of Reconciliation
Memorial: St. Benedict
(Gen 44:18 – 45:5; Ps 105; Mt 10:7-15)
David Wells, a well-known educator from England, spoke at the Los Angeles Religions Education Congress recently. His talk focused on the two words that begin today’s gospel: “Go” and “Announce.”
His message echoed that of today’s readings: Go out to the whole world and proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ that includes healing and reconciliation.
“Go.” With this word, Jesus calls for action on the part of his disciples. Wells stressed the importance of movement in our lives, noting that water without any movement goes stale. The prime example of that is of course the Dead Sea, which has no outlet. Our faith in Jesus without action to accompany it is like stale water.
The action that Jesus calls for is to “Announce” the good news. There are two different meanings of this word “announce.” On the one hand, it could mean simply to proclaim something. On the other hand, it could mean to make manifest or witness – a much deeper meaning with much greater implications.
Wells offered two examples of just announcing or proclaiming. One was the usual lonely but loud protesters at the LA Congress who are basically a nuisance to the participants, denouncing all Catholics. The other was a lone protester Wells observed while attending an event in Rome in St Peter’s Square, shouting out loud to no one in particular that Francis was not his pope.
Then Wells snuck in an example of witnessing. Two high school girls next to the protester were puzzled by his “proclamation” and then offered him part of their lunch, as they knew he must be hungry. Their witnessing of their humble faith moved Wells deeply, almost to tears, compared to the loud but lonely proclamation by the protester.
Wells shared other examples of witnessing that influenced his life. A priest whom he admired actually gave his shoes to a street boy whom they met one day. Wells never forgot his example that helped him become a better Christian. He also spoke of feeling resentful when a hungry boy in a developing world grabbed the half sandwich he offered to him without a thank you, until he saw the boy share the half sandwich with a group of his friends. Then Wells felt small and abashed, for he had just seen charity that was truly witnessed, not just announced.
The Good News Jesus wants his disciples and us to announce by witnessing to it, is the Reign of God is near; that through faith in him and by living that faith, new life, forgiveness, healing and freedom is possible. We are to share our faith and give away our love and compassion without counting the cost, seeking only to be bearers of peace and reconciliation.
The first reading offers us an Old Testament example prefiguring that of Jesus the savior in the person of Joseph, who was sold into slavery by his brothers. Through the grace of God, he became the powerful head of affairs for the Pharaoh of Egypt and in a position to save the lives of people. Joseph forgives his brothers and begins a process of reconciliation with them. He even encourages them to forgive themselves for what they had done to him, pointing out how God turns everything to the good for those who love him.
Today the Church honors St. Benedict, who was certainly a missionary disciple. Considered the father of Western monasticism, he was born in Nursia in central Italy circa 480 and died in 547.The little we know of his personal life comes from two documents: The Second Dialogue of Gregory the Great, and the Rule written by Benedict himself. Benedict was educated in Rome, a decadent city. After a few years, convinced God was calling him to be a monk or hermit, Benedict fled to a local village. After a brief stay with some holy men, he decided on a life of solitude. He received the monastic habit at Subiaco, and retired to a cave, where he lived alone in the tradition of the Desert Fathers. Soon, he began to attract followers and built 12 small monasteries.
Between 520 and 530, Benedict and a few companions founded the great monastery of Monte Casino, where he spent the rest of his life and wrote his Rule. This work became the primary influence on Western religious life for the next 600 years and is still followed by the “daughters and sons” of St. Benedict. This remarkable guide reflected the fatherly concern and charity of Benedict as he adapted the austere rule of the Desert Fathers to community life. He emphasized moderation, humility, obedience, prayer and manual labour as the way of holiness. St. Benedict is considered the Patriarch of Western Monasticism, and was proclaimed patron of Europe in 1964 by Pope Paul VI.
The Eucharist is a foretaste of that heavenly banquet that involves forgiveness, healing and transformation. May our celebration empower us to go and announce that the reign of God is near by our lives, as did St. Benedict.