May 12, 2024

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

Evangelization is hard work. At least it can seem hard when we think of how the Apostles went out on the first Pentecost, or how St. Paul traveled the known world proclaiming Christ, or how the early Church bore witness in hostile times. The heroism of those early witnesses, or the powerful witness of saints and martyrs throughout history, or even the inspiring preaching of so many modern-day speakers and missionaries might seem out of reach. But those saints of our history and of our present also faced great challenges and obstacles in the work of proclaiming the Gospel. It was with that in mind that our Lord offered the profound prayer for His disciples we hear in today’s Gospel passage. “As you sent me into the world, so I send them into the world…I consecrate myself for them, so that they also may be consecrated in truth.” Jesus prays that the disciples would be able to speak the truth of the Gospel to the whole world and that they would be protected from the devil as they do so. For whatever challenges we face in the work of evangelization, be they public opposition or demonic malignancy, what we hear proclaimed in the Gospel today is meant to be comfort and balm.

Whenever this Gospel comes around, I cannot help but turn to St. Ignatius of Loyola’s meditation on the call of the temporal king. In the second week of his Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius imagines a good, well-respected king who calls all his people to follow him into battle. Hard though the battle will be, following the king means sharing everything the king himself shares, including the reward of the battle. How should a good subject answer such a king? St. Ignatius develops the meditation further, placing Christ the King in the place of the earthly king. It is Jesus who has gone into the lists of battle first. Consecrated in the truth and consecrated for his disciples and all who would believe through them, Jesus has already led the charge against enemy lines and has already won the decisive victory over sin and death. St. Ignatius imagines Jesus addressing us, His subjects, in these words: “It is My will to conquer all the world and all enemies and so to enter into the glory of My Father; therefore, whoever would like to come with Me is to labor with Me, that following Me in the pain, he may also follow Me in the glory.” Whatever the labor, whatever the pain, we who follow Jesus are promised resurrection and glory in God’s presence forever.

Evangelization is certainly hard work. Jesus never says it will be easy to go out as his witnesses in the world. Fortunately, the Gospel for this seventh Sunday in the Easter season reminds us that the task of proclaiming the Resurrection and making Christ known to the world does not depend exclusively on our skill. As we pray for guidance and divine assistance in our Christian mission, our prayer is joined to the prayer of Jesus for all those who would follow Him. In the days between the Ascension of the Lord and Pentecost, the Church again prays a novena preparing for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The Scriptures read at Masses in these nine days place certain Gospel passages before us for reflection. Just as the Apostles gathered with the Blessed Virgin Mary reflected on the teachings, prayer, and miracles of the Lord, we too reflect on those key moments in our Lord’s public ministry and those central themes of the Gospel that prepare us for mission. These days of prayer allow us to open our hearts more and more to the Holy Spirit who inspires our evangelical efforts and guides us in the way of truth. And not only the way of truth, but the truth Himself, the one who has consecrated us, prayed for us, redeemed us, and missioned us, to go into the whole world proclaiming the Good News.

Peace,

Fr. Sam