Proclaim the Good News
The Passionist Congregation is noted for sending out missionaries at home and abroad to proclaim God’s love in the Passion of Jesus. For many years as an itinerant preacher, I had the privilege to travel to various parishes on the East coast to conduct parish missions or renewals, and occasionally overseas. I often thought about how I was imitating Jesus and the apostles who journeyed to the towns and villages of Palestine announcing that the kingdom of God was at hand.
For the most part, the pastors and people were friendly and welcoming to visiting missionaries. The people were seeking a deeper union with God through the insights and inspiration that the preacher would provide, and through sacramental ministry. There was one parish, however, where I took literally what Jesus said to do when the “place does not welcome you or listen to you.” It was large inner city parish, and the priests and people seemed to be lukewarm in the practice of their faith. The low turnout of people at the mission was an indication that little preparation or encouragement was done beforehand. So I hit my shoe against the church building as I left town.
After a quiet life in Nazareth and Capernaum, Jesus embarked on his public ministry as directed by his heavenly Father. The gospels give ample proof of the success that Jesus had in his preaching and healing ministry. However, it seems there were places where his apostles and their message about the kingdom of God were not welcome. That is a heartbreaking reality in the history of the Church. So many missionaries were persecuted, imprisoned and martyred because the message of Jesus was rejected. Yet Jesus commissioned his disciples to proclaim the good news everywhere.
It is clear that the Apostles had great success in many towns for they gave testimony of the way God moved among them. It is always amazing to me that the Twelve Apostles proclaimed the good news, healed the sick and cast out demons without Jesus being in their midst. Notice they were not ordained priests at that point, and one could say that the Holy Spirit had not yet descended upon the believers. What we find here is that anointed ministry can function apart from ordination.
Throughout Church history we find laity and vowed religious doing marvelous ministry with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. This is happening in our time as well. I have heard lay people lead prayer gatherings, give spiritual messages at conferences, pray over the sick, serve in foreign missions, etc., and their ministry is powerful. Jesus sends them out and empowers them with the gifts of the Holy Spirit. It is beautiful to observe and to celebrate.
Fr. Michael Salvagna, CP