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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Robert Barron » Robert Barron - How Will You Evangelize Today?

Robert Barron - How Will You Evangelize Today?

Robert Barron - How Will You Evangelize Today?
TOPICS: Evangelism

Peace be with you. Friends, last week we had a wonderful portrait of discipleship. You might say the cost of discipleship was on clear display. As we continue now our reading of the Gospel of Luke, we have today a great, I would say, portrait of the Church, what the Church looks like, what its central concerns are, what the demands upon it are. And the setting is Jesus sending out seventy-two disciples. Just put yourself in that position. All of us baptized people are disciples of the Lord, and we're in this relationship with him. He's going to send us out.

So let's just walk through this passage. It'll teach us very important lessons about the Church. So we hear, "The Lord appointed a further seventy-two, sent them in pairs before him to every town and place he intended to visit". First we learn we are a missionary Church. Christianity is not so much a quiet, sit-in-place spirituality. There's room for the whole monastic contemplative dimension, of course there is. But the basic thrust of Christianity is toward mission. "Mittere" in Latin, to send, and "mission" just comes from that word. We are sent out. The Gospel is not for us simply to savor for our own edification. We can and we should, but then the impetus, the trajectory, is always toward sharing it.

Now, I've said this many times, but I think for a lot of the ordinary baptized, they don't think of it that way. They think, "Yeah, I'll go to Mass and I'll receive the sacraments and I'll try to be a decent person, but I'm not a missionary. I'm not like a priest or a bishop or a sister or a professional missionary". Well, you might not be crossing the ocean, but yes, as a baptized person, you're like one of these seventytwo. You've been sent on a mission. See, what would your life look like? Just think about this.

If when you woke up in the morning you said, "Now, how will I bring the Gospel of Christ to somebody today"? It might not be through the most eloquent preaching or through high theological debate or something like that. It can be as simple as an act of love. An act of kindness. Telling someone about Christ. A parent to a child. A friend to a friend. A coworker to a coworker. But how would your life change if you every morning felt, "Yes, I'm like one of these seventy-two who've been sent out on mission"? I love the fact, he sends them in pairs. It's very important. We do this work in relation to others. There's something, I think, repugnant to Christianity in the idea of a single person doing his or her work.

There's a marvelous movie with Robert Duval called "The Apostle". Came out, I don't know, maybe twenty-five years ago now. Really good movie about this complex, conflicted man who was a preacher but also a deeply flawed human being. And he does a lot of good things. But one of the signs that all is not well with him is he essentially baptizes himself and then sets out alone on what he construes to be his mission. That's repugnant to the Gospel. Jesus sends them, the seventy-two, but then he sends them two by two. To have a companion in this work, someone with whom you can talk, someone who can see what you're doing and correct you. Give you feedback, insight. Someone with whom you can pray. Someone with whom you can share bread, with whom you can laugh and cry. It's exceptionally important in the spiritual life; we don't do this alone.

So think, everybody, not just on the grand scale, but your ordinary missionary work, with coworkers and with the family and with friends and so on, that you're not doing it alone. You're not just on your own, but you're always in communion with someone else doing the same work. Just think of so many people across the ages. Benedict and Chrysostom, Jerome, Francis and Clare, Dominic, Mother Teresa, Ignatius, they all drew to themselves people. They might have begun, think of Ignatius beginning in that cave at Manresa was kind of on his own. But for his great apostolic work, he gathered to himself this society of Jesus. Mother Teresa indeed started off more or less on her own, but very quickly, former students came to her and her order grew and grew.

Same with Francis. He begins in a kind of solitary attitude, but then very shortly, people come to him. The Lord sends us out two by two to do his work. Okay? Let's keep listening to the Lord. "The harvest is rich, but the workers are few; therefore ask the harvest master to send workers to his harvest". It's funny, everybody, but this is an occupational hazard, in a way, of spiritual people, religious people, is we start to think this is our project. So we get into it. Whatever your work is. Teaching or catechizing or missionary work, evangelization work, caring for the poor, whatever it is, you start to think, "Oh, this is my program, and I'm going to come up with my plans. We'll have our meetings and we'll determine what we're going to do".

I mean, okay in itself. But in the Bible, everybody, nothing great ever happens apart from prayer. Let me just say that again: nothing great ever happens apart from prayer. Yes, plans and projects and all that. Fine. But if and only if it is sustained by, animated by, backed up by prayer. "Ask the harvest master". I know this sounds maybe overly obvious, but even in pious parish settings with good, dedicated, religious people, if you ask the simple question, "Well, have you prayed about this? Before your meeting? Before your strategizing session? Before you launch your program? Did you pray about this? Did you ask the Lord of the harvest"? I might have told you before this story, but I've always been impressed by it.

The great Billy Graham, the evangelical preacher, always sent a team ahead of him a year in advance of one of his crusades in a great city. He'd send the team not to do logistical work but to pray. Their whole job was to pray for the success of the mission. That's good. "Ask the harvest master". So whatever you're doing in the Church, pray, pray, pray. Okay. Let's keep listening to our Lord. "Do not carry a walking staff or traveling bag; wear no sandals and greet no one along the way". There's just something about poverty and simplicity of life that makes you a more effective evangelist and missionary.

Now I say it, look, a lot of my work is in evangelization, I say this with a certain selfreproach. We're all sinners. I'm a sinner. But those who live a simple life, a life of poverty, I think have a greater efficaciousness when it comes to proclaiming the Gospel. You know who's been so good here is Pope Francis reminding us of this fact. I remember, this was 2015, I'd just been named a bishop, and we were all in Washington and the pope was coming to visit. And so all the bishops were standing out on the front steps of St. Matthew Cathedral in Washington. There's all these limousines and big, fancy cars. Politicians were there, and so on. And then up comes this little dumpy car. It was almost comical, like a clown car. And up it comes, and out of it comes the pope.

To this day, that's many years ago, I remember the power of that symbolism. Somehow when we denude ourselves of a lot of the goods of the world, we're not relying on that but relying on God's providence, somehow we have a more effective evangelical power. So, "do not carry a walking staff or traveling bag; wear no sandals". Strip yourself of some of the accoutrement of life, and you might find yourself relying more on God's providence. Now, notice a kind of flip side to that. The very next thing the Lord says: "Stay in the one house, eating and drinking what they have, for the laborer is worth his wage".

So yeah, poverty and simplicity of life. Absolutely. But is there an obligation on the part of believers to support those who do the explicit work of the Church? Those who are the preachers and the celebrators of the liturgy, and those who are caring for the poor in a formal way. Is the Church on for supporting them? I think the answer clearly is yes. The worker's worth his wage. Do we, now I'm speaking broadly, do we as a Church really support the people who are involved most directly in the work of ministry and evangelization and care for the poor? Do we see this as kind of an extraneous thing? We might throw a few dollars in the collection plate once in a while. Or do we see it as a basic work of justice, what we owe to those who are doing in a very explicit way the work of the Church?

Yeah, poverty, simplicity of life, absolutely, but also the obligation of all the believers to support those who are doing this work. I know from many years of leadership in the Church, we'd have nothing in terms of parishes, hospitals, schools, seminaries, institutions, were it not for the extraordinary generosity of lay people. Good. Responding, I think, precisely to this, that the worker is worth his wage. Good. Thank God for those generous people. Okay? Just a few more. What should the minister do when he gets to the city? Jesus says, "Cure the sick there". Very interesting. Was Jesus a healer? Absolutely. One of the most basic things we know about him is that he healed the sick. He was called a "soter", that's in the Greek of the New Testament, it means healer.

Read Philip Jenkins, he does these marvelous books on the Church in the developing countries. We tend to read things through the Western lens all the time, but look at the Church especially in Africa. What does Jenkins notice? That the churches all have healing services. Not extraneous, not like once every six months and a few people come. No. It's essential to the life of the Church is that people come to be cured. Yeah. Good. Have we lost confidence in that? Jesus said, "Go cure the sick". Now, healing takes place at many levels, of course, intellectual and spiritual and psychological, and the Church does all of that, it's involved in healing, but I think also, even in the most direct way. Do we take that seriously? Or do we think, "Oh, that's for ages gone by"? I don't know. I don't know. He tells the seventy-two, "Cure the sick where you go".

The Church is still a source of that healing. How about one more? The second great task after curing the sick, Jesus says, is, "Proclaim that the reign of God is at hand". Well, there's the central theme of his own preaching. When he first appeared in the hills of Galilee, that was what was on his lips. The reign of God. What does it mean? Oceans of ink had been spilled trying to explain the kingdom of God. Can I say this, maybe? Jesus himself is the kingdom of God. That means he's the coming together of divinity and humanity. He's what a properly ordered humanity in relation to the infinitely loving God looks like. And therefore, the world that he opens up, that's the kingdom of God.

Love and peace and forgiveness and nonviolence. Love especially of one's enemies. Think of the world and all of its manifestations of cruelty and hatred and injustice and violence and scapegoating and all of that. That's the kingdom of the world. Jesus, in his own person, is the reign of God. He's the kingdom of God. So what do we do as a Church? We proclaim him. We announce him. We offer him to the world. And it's a challenge to the earthly kingdom that dominates our thinking and our behavior. Okay? So there you got it. Go back to Luke chapter 10. Review this Gospel, fellow baptized people, and you'll see step by step what the Church ought to look like, what the Church ought to do. And God bless you.
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