June 4, 2019
by George Butterfield
Formerly of the Creighton School of Law Library
click here for photo and information about the writer

Tuesday of the Seventh Week of Easter
Lectionary: 298

Acts 20:17-27
Psalms 68:10-11, 20-21
John 17:1-11a

Celebrating Easter

Weekly Guide for Daily Prayer

Sometimes it can be hard to be a messenger - an intermediary, especially when you have bad news or a message that will make you unpopular. We all want to be loved. So, the temptation for the messenger is to shave off the hard edges of the message, to try to make it more palatable. As Christians, we have Good News to bring to our families, friends, and communities. However, sometimes that Good News comes off as Bad News because of the circumstances of the hearer. This is when we are tempted to tone down the demands of the Gospel.

The Apostle Paul's only desire was to proclaim the Good News or, as he calls it in our first reading, "the Gospel of God's grace," "the entire plan of God." What did he get in return? Tears, trials, and plots. There were people who tried to kill him. Hardships and imprisonment were coming. Why didn't he just make his message more acceptable to folks? He could have presented a Jesus who didn't upset his Jewish friends and relatives. He certainly could have created a Jesus that everybody loved, even if they didn't want to follow him. Repentance? Why talk about that? He could have emphasized an "I'm okay, you're okay" message. Why stir people up and tell them that they have to change, that they have to start living differently, that they can't simply do whatever they want to do and have God respond with "That's nice?" How dare he teach people that they had to trust in God and not themselves. I mean, aren't we lacking enough in self-esteem that he has to go and tell us we have to humble ourselves before God? Paul seems to think that he will have blood on his hands if he doesn't tell people the truth. No wonder people hated him.

When I went through diaconal formation, the director of the program emphasized that, to be a deacon in the Archdiocese of Omaha, we could not dissent from Church teaching. Why is that, I thought? What if I dissent from certain teachings? I'm not foolish enough to go around pushing my dissenting views. Momma didn't raise no fool. No, I would keep quiet on those subjects. No one would hear about those things that I dissented from church teaching on. The director had a different point of view. He stated that people have the right to hear the truth from us. If I keep my mouth shut and don't present dissenting views, I am also not presenting the teaching of the Church, the teaching of Jesus. Then he made it clear: people have the right to receive Catholic teaching from Catholic deacons. Silence is not an option. To remain quiet when we have been called to teach puts blood on our hands. People have a right to the entire plan of God. It is my responsibility to present it. The people who hear it are responsible for what they do with it.

We should not be nasty or pushy in proclaiming the Good News. Our words should be "seasoned with salt," to use Paul's words. But we cannot shrink from telling the truth. We cannot do anything to domesticate the radical message of the Gospel. Following Jesus is filled with joy and love but also hardship and trials. To present to people anything but the unadulterated plan of God, the Gospel of his grace, is to stand before God with blood on our hands. In light of this, I am beginning to think that being loved by everybody is highly overrated.

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