Friday, 3rd Week in Ordinary Time
MAC Bishops’ Workshop
St. John Bosco
Jan. 31, 2020
Throughout this day we will be focusing on communications, especially on how to communicate well and wisely in times like these when something of a cloud hangs over the Church, when mistrust seems to be the order of the day, and especially when there is really bad news to share with our people and with the public.
Yet, in the midst of this crisis and in the midst of trying to communicate amid the din, the identity and mission of the Church remains the same, — the same as it was when the Risen Lord gave the Apostles the great commission ‘to teach all nations.’ As St. Paul VI taught us evangelization is not only the Church’s primary task but her deepest identity.
Today’s readings help us see how it is you and I can live out the Church’s mission to spread the Gospel so as to bear, in the grace of the Holy Spirit, a harvest worthy of the Kingdom of Heaven … beginning with the story of David’s sin in 2nd Samuel and the Penitential Psalm that follows it. Here we find David betraying the trust that God and the people of Israel invested in him. In stunning fashion, he violates the sixth and ninth commandments of the Decalogue – sins with which Nathan the prophet will confront him in tomorrow’s reading. Without putting too fine a point on it, we can see parallels to the betrayals of trust that have contributed mightily to the crisis in which we find ourselves. Psalm 51, in which we pray not only to be forgiven but indeed to be purified – this great penitential psalm holds the key to renewed missionary vigor. Both privately and collectively we must acknowledge our sin, beg to be clean of heart, and at the same time believe in the power of God’s forgiveness, even when the world around us and some of our own people do not.
So it’s on to the Gospel where Jesus describes the mission of evangelization in terms of planting seeds – planting the seeds of faith, hope, and charity throughout the mission field entrusted to us. When we feel the task is overwhelming because of our weakness or because of the hardness of the secular soil upon which we cast these seeds, Jesus, in today’s Gospel, corrects our narrow, semi-pelagian point of view. While we may work hard to cultivate the earth, that is, to prepare people to receive the Word of Life, and sometimes feel as though we are fighting a losing battle, Jesus reminds us that it is his heavenly Father who gives the growth and that the tiniest of seeds can grow into the largest of shrubs. This conviction, borne of the Holy Spirit, must animate our preaching, our teaching, our entire ministry.
Finally, as if to illustrate there is the example of St. John Bosco, the great founder of the Salesians. With little or nothing, this great pioneer in educating and evangelizing troubled youth, began his mission. He cultivated the soil of those young hearts by bringing them to Mass, organizing games, taking them on nature walks (my favorite), and providing them with classes at night. He started out with six homeless boys whom he brought to his mother’s home. At the time of his death in 1888, the Salesians numbered nearly 800 and the mission he had begun, like the planting of a mustard seed, had grown exponentially.
As we head into this day devoted to communications, may the Holy Spirit fan our faith into flame, so that we may believe and trust with all our hearts, that even now, “God who gives seed to the sower and bread for food, will supply and multiply our seed and increase our harvest of righteousness” (2 Cor. 9:10).