Easter 04, Year C

My grace is sufficient for you (2 Cor. 12:9)

Whenever the word of God is announced, there are always those who do not see any need to hear any more good news since they are convinced they have already heard the one that is definitive and they have known for many years the saving truth. Among these types could very well be classified those who opposed the first martyr, Stephen, and also those who rejected the preaching of Paul and Barnabas, and those, too, who elsewhere stirred up a persecution against the two, which eventually led to their expulsion from that territory. These opponents exemplify external opposition.

The opposition can also be internal, that is to say, it comes from colleagues and partners. This was the opposition shown by the brothers who criticized Peter saying, “You entered the house of uncircumcised people and ate with them” (Acts 11:3). They belonged to the same opposition those whom Paul considered false brothers who were secretly brought in and influenced Peter into behaving in a manner that Paul took to be wrong and hypocritical (Gal. 2).

There are always obstacles then that make evangelization difficult: imprisonments, beatings, brushes with death, lashes, stoning, shipwrecks, dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from one’s own countrymen, dangers from strangers, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers at sea, dangers among false brothers, toils and hardships, sleepless nights, hunger and thirst, cold and exposure (2 Cor. 11:23-27). Yet in all these things, the authentic evangelizers—as assured by another one of Paul’s letters—overwhelmingly conquer through him who love them, for neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate them from the love of God in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:37-39).

The authentic evangelizers, therefore, never give up. They are sure of the ultimate victory because of, among other things, their vision of that great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue, standing before the throne and the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands. The true preachers of the word of God believe firmly that, if they survive the time of obstacles and great distress, they too will get to wash their robes and make them white, paradoxically, in the blood of the Lamb. The true evangelizers and followers of the Lamb, who was led to the slaughter and who—paradoxically again—became shepherd, will lead them to springs of life-giving water. Hearing the voice of the Lamb Shepherd, the sheep shall never perish, nor can anyone or anything take them out of the Shepherd’s hands, out of the Father’s hands.

The authentic evangelizers do not waste their time either, wallowing in self-pity due to the obstacles that arise and the rejection they suffer. They simply find other options, the way Paul and Barnabas found them when they decided to turn to the Gentiles. They propose to do something like what St. Vincent de Paul proposed he would do when he said:

I myself, in spite of my age, I say before God that I do not
feel exempt from the obligation of laboring for the salvation
of those poor people, for what could hinder me from doing so?
If I cannot preach every day, all right! I will preach twice a
week; if I cannot preach more important sermons, I will strive to
preach less important ones; and if the people do not hear me,
then what is there to prevent me from speaking in a friendly,
homely way to those poor folk, as I am now speaking to you,
gathering them around me as you are now?

When it comes to preaching the word of God and obstacles turn up, one cannot really use them as excuses for not doing the assigned task.