As Director of Certification for Ecclesial Ministry and Service at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), I have the opportunity to record video reflections on the readings of the Scriptures proclaimed at daily Mass. I do so as part of larger group of colleagues at the Conference, along with lay and ordained leaders from around the country. I am grateful for the opportunity to reflect on the meaning of the readings for the life of faith today and to share them here, along with the written text of the reflections. To view these video reflections for past and upcoming celebrations of the Eucharist, visit the USCCB website.
It’s a long walk / But we’re gonna take it / It’s a long walk / We’ll get there I know! It’s a long walk / I hope my feet can make it / It’s a long walk / We’re all goin’ home!\
Those are the words of a refrain from a song by a liturgical composers- Bobby Fisher & Ed Gutfreund, and they remind us of the comission given in today’s Gospel by the risen Jesus to his disciples: “Go into the whole world, and proclaim the gospel – the good news – to every creature.”
It is fitting that as we move toward the conclusion of the octave of Easter that we are reminded of this mission statement of the church. It is not the mission of priests or bishops or even popes; it is the entire church’s mission. All are called in this ‘great commission’ of Jesus. As has been said many times: “The church doesn’t have a mission. The mission has a church!”
And this good news is a promise of life after death, to be sure – but it is also a promise of new life beginning here and now, today. It is a call to commit ourselves to the ‘long walk of faith’ each day. And it is a reminder that we don’t walk alone on that journey. And it is a further call to listen carefully and always anew for God’s Word active in the church and the world.
The apostles and disciples of Jesus, who have been empowered by the Holy Spirit, boldly proclaim that ‘good news.’ In today’s first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, we’re reminded that some of the Jewish authorities – the very ones who had not long before conspired with Pilate to put Jesus to death – are still seeking to prevent the good news of Jesus from spreading. But, they are realizing that it has a life among the Christian witnesses which can’t be contained.
Like those leaders, we, too, can sometimes hear the word of God from an unexpected place or person or group and become fearful – as those leaders were – at the power of that witness. Or some might be tempted to think that only certain people are the ones who should carry out the mission. It is good to remind ourselves that Jesus’ own disciples had a lot to learn before they could proclaim! Today’s Gospel indicates they had a hard time very early on accepting the good news of the resurrection because it didn’t fit their expectations or plans.
Even after several witnesses, Jesus himself finally had to come and teach them that their doubts were getting in the way of the spreading of the good news! Aren’t we all like them at times – unable to imagine that God can work in a new way and bring new life where we think it is impossible?
Maybe these readings call us to remember that listening to, proclaiming, and living out the good news is an always ongoing mission. It was a challenge even for those who were closest to Jesus, so we can take a lot of comfort as we struggle to proclaim and live the Gospel 2000 years later! As the song says, ‘it’s a long walk!’ We sometimes doubt if we can make it, but we are reminded that if we remain open to listening to the Holy Spirit in our lives and in our church, and we proclaim the good news in our time and place, and we live the message of Jesus with integrity and care – all of us, in the words of the song, will be ‘goin’ home’ – not just Christians and those we know, but the whole world and, indeed, all of creation. And THAT, is Easter good news!
God give you peace!