August 29th, 2007
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“We give thanks to God unceasingly that, in receiving the
word of God from hearing us, you received it not as the word of
men, but as it truly is, the word of God which is now at work in
you who believe.”
It’s a familiar scenario.
The doorbell rings and two squeaky-clean young people greet me earnestly
and hand me literature aimed at saving my soul. I take the pamphlets,
close the door and throw the material away unread. I’m very
happy with the efforts the Jesuits are making to help me save my
soul, thank you.
Still I always marvel at the door-to-door evangelists. How on earth
can they do this? Proselytizing is the last thing I would ever do.
What makes these kids think they are God’s messengers? Who
are God’s messengers anyhow? How do we recognize them? That’s
the root question today’s reading raise.
I’m guessing that if I had met either John the Baptist or
St. Paul, the odds are 98 percent that I would have steered clear
of them just like I do door-to-door and street corner evangelists.
John, especially, must have seemed like a psycho to mainstream Jews.
No wonder they locked him up. Wouldn’t we? Was Herod much
different than the leaders of El Salvador who executed Archbishop
Romero and the Jesuits?
I try to imagine the courage that it must have taken for middle
class Greeks to even listen to St. Paul, let alone convert. The
social stigma alone would have been awful to say nothing of minor
dangers like martyrdom. Is this much different than the stigma that
modern prophetic people like Dorothy Day and Daniel Berrigan faced
when they went to jail to protest wars?
Even Mother Teresa said some pretty radical things about our duties
to the poor. She took huge risks when she left her convent to move
to the slums of Calcutta.
Today’s readings ask us to open ourselves to messages from
God, possibly delivered by people who frighten us because they live
outside the mainstream, just as St. John the Baptist and St. Paul
did. Maybe we even need to act as if “the word of God is at
work” in those of us who believe.
to the writer of this reflection.
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