A Different Way of Listening
At Jesus’ Ascension, as He was preparing His disciples and eleven remaining Apostles for His departure, He instructed them to "Go into the whole world and preach the gospel to every creature" [Mk 16:15]. Jesus commissioned them to be co-laborers with their Redeemer in the work of saving the world [cf. Luke 24:46-53].
And, they responded by traveling to the ends of the then-known world to proclaim the message of Christ. Many who heard Jesus’ words that day ultimately gave their lives in that effort.
For example, tradition has it that Thomas went as far as western India before being martyred near Madras. Nathaniel is said to have been martyred at the hands of Ethiopian rulers in Africa. And, Matthew made it into the southern region of modern-day Russia where he was martyred.
We are all to “go into the whole world and preach the gospel.”
Often, we are reminded that Jesus was speaking to all of His disciples. We are all to “go into the whole world and preach the gospel.” But, if we really take that message to heart, we quickly face a quandary “how can we possibly do that; most of us have work and family responsibilities that make packing up and heading off to foreign lands out of the question?” So, what then did Jesus mean for us to do? How are we to: “go into the whole world and preach the gospel?”
Jesus’ first disciples lived in an age of great expectations, a time when the vast majority of people were oppressed by imperial powers, from the Roman Empire in the Mediterranean and Middle East, to the Auximite Empire in northern Africa, to the Kushana Empire that stretched from southern Russia through much of India and Pakistan. Most people longed for meaning in their suffering circumstances and they readily accepted the “good news” of Christ’s redemption of mankind. It was the ruling powers that vehemently, sometimes violently, opposed the early disciples.
But we face a much different world than they did in the first century.
But we face a much different world than they did in the first century. Today, people’s self-awareness, their worldview, their life circumstances are quite different than in the first century. Rather than a time of great expectations, we live in an age of great disillusionment. Today, most of the world has at least heard of the message of Jesus Christ. And, many, for a time, held to the promise of eternal life.
But, in our place and time in the world many have lost heart; many have lost hope in knowing God. They’re disillusioned with many things: the promise that science and medicine would relieve human suffering on a grand scale; the promise that economic prosperity would better the standard of living for all; the promise that governments would keep them safe and secure. Many are now suspicious of anything that professes to be authorative in providing answers to life’s deepest questions.
In our times, the world has a different way of “listening” for truth. It’s no accident that we don’t have today any Thomas Aquinases, or C.S. Lewises, or even Fulton Sheens. Today’s “listeners” accept very little of what they read or hear. They learn most through what they see others do in their own lives and dealings; for, many today rely on themselves alone to discern what is true.
The unchanging message of Jesus Christ needs to be “proclaimed” in a much different manner than in the past.
This presents both a great challenge and a great opportunity. The challenge is that the unchanging message of Jesus Christ needs to be “proclaimed” in a much different manner than in the past. The opportunity is that the “world” we are to go into and proclaim is the very world we’re already in: it’s our own community, our own work places, our own neighborhoods, our own homes.
It’s what you and I do, in our everyday lives, that will be “listened to” far more intently than what we may say or write.
The world has a different way of “listening” for truth, in our times. It’s what you and I do, in our everyday lives, that will be “listened to” far more intently than what we may say or write. The world will find ‘truth’ in how fairly we deal with others, how civilly we accept differences, how committed we are to caring, how much worth others see us give to their existence.
People still long for meaning in their circumstances; they hunger for belonging, for purpose, for something reliable to hang onto. They need joy in their lives and they are open to “listening;” but, in a much different way than Jesus’ first disciples encountered. In our place and time, perhaps more so than at any other time in history, it’s how others see us live the message of Christ that we will preach the gospel to every creature. For, they really are “listening.”
‘Till next time.
Dcn. Bob Evans
February 22, 2020
Mark 16:15; Luke 24:46-53