Daily Reflection
April 22nd, 2006

Robert P. Heaney

John A. Creighton University Chair
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Acts 4:13-21
Psalm 118:1 and 14-15ab, 16-18, 19-21
Mark 16:9-15

Peter: “It is impossible for us for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard.”

Jesus: “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.”

Something has happened in the nearly 2,000 years since these episodes occurred. Today religion is a private matter, not to be discussed, because it is said to be divisive. Besides, if it is about me and my relationship to God, what’s to discuss? My relationship is not your relationship, and the two are bound to be different.

As today’s readings make clear, the earliest Christians thought religion was something quite different. Jesus’ words in the Gospel can be paraphrased as “Go out to the whole world. Proclaim the good news of God’s victory to all creation.” And clearly Peter says he just cannot be quiet about that good news, irrespective of what the authorities demand. Has Jesus’ command been repealed?

If we understood, as Peter did, that God has won – that sin and death, which seem to flood our world today (as they did 2,000 years ago), no longer have power over us – how could we be silent? In Jesus, God reaches out to “all creatures”. Our vocation, as his disciples, is to do the same. Nothing less. Religion – Christianity – is not about saving me, it is about saving our world. A big job, certainly. But God has already won in Jesus; our part is to spread the word, to let our brothers and sisters know that they have a choice, and to show by our lives of joy and humility and self-giving what that victory is all about.

Yes, religion is divisive. That is because it is important. One theme that runs through all the New Testament books, from the infancy narratives of the Gospels to the missionary work of Paul, is that when God’s way is proclaimed, there are two reactions: Some accept it with joy, while others turn away, often with hate. Jesus, Himself, said that he had come to bring a sword into society.

There are no rules about how we are to proclaim the good news. Surely, however, without our being pushy, our sisters and brothers in secular society need to know that we believe in a God who is pure self-giving love. They need to see that we are honest and that we seek the good of others. Those are powerful proclamations.

An Omaha Diocesan priest told me a story two years ago that illustrates perfectly what that can mean. In the midst of the publicity about the Church’s sexual abuse scandal, his parish RCIA class was nevertheless full, and he asked one couple why they had come. They told him simply: “We live next door to a family that belongs to this parish; they had something we didn’t.”

“Go out to the whole world. Proclaim the good news of God’s victory to all creatures.”

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