Reflection from the First Saturday in Advent
Disciples are sent to go and make new disciples. We cannot remain merely recipients. This is a tough part of the process. We are constantly struggling to make sure that we are not imposing the Gospel and that we aren’t arrogantly failing to learn from those we go out to reach. The struggle I find addressed in the Gospel today is the balance between words and actions.
A quote, loosely credited to St. Francis of Assisi, has gained a lot of traction lately. It reads, “preach the Gospel always, and when necessary use words.” I think sometimes we take this to mean, “Ok when action just doesn’t cut it, then you can use words.” As if it said, “if necessary, use words” not “when necessary.” That interpretation neither fits Jesus’ model nor His command in today’s Gospel.
Matthew tells us that Jesus, “went around to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom, and curing every disease and illness” and “Jesus sent out these Twelve after instructing them thus, ‘Go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, make this proclamation: “The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, drive out demons. Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give’.” This is not a ‘speak only if you absolutely have to’ model. This is a model that compels us to recognize the irreplaceable necessity of both acting and speaking. The acting first brings the people into contact with Jesus and the disciples since He went to them. The speaking then points toward God and the fulfillment of the Kingdom. Finally, the action then gives credibility to the words; both the works done and the refusal for payment or exaltation.
So, if we are tempted to exclusive action we need to ask the Lord to open our lips to proclaim the Good News. Or, if we are tempted to exclusive speaking we, our petition needs to be that the Lord can mobilize us and help us take action. Either way, “the harvest is abundant and the laborers are few”; and as laborers in the Kingdom we better take our model from the Prince of Peace instead of a bumper sticker slogan.