Daily Reflection
August 29th, 2007

Eileen Wirth

Journalism Department
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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.

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