20th Sunday in Ordinary Time – 16th August
Often when we consider proclaiming the gospel to another person it is possible to proceed from a position of needs to have what we are having. This is a dynamic which sees the other person as a blank slate on which we can write the Good News. There are problems with this process as people tend to resist being preached at or being told that they need to be saved. What they hear and what we say can make a profound difference in how a person receives that message of faith, hope and love. I believe there is a way which does not assume that the person is lacking in any of these areas.
We hear the words of the Canaanite woman who seeks healing for her daughter from Jesus. Paul seeks to preach to the pagans because they experience God’s mercy. In Isaiah, the foreigners seek to have a care for justice and to act with integrity. This approach assumes there is natural and intuitive goodness planted in each person by God. There is a desire which wells up inside each person which seeks to live from that place of good not just for themselves but for others. Karl Rahner often called these people anonymous Christians. There is a place where they have met Jesus Christ in a way which proceeds us talking about him. The way opens up the doors of salvation to those who appear “far away”.
When we then go out and live that good news in our community it is by way of attraction and friendship. Trusting that God will introduce us to the people ready to hear that Word which they have already noticed intuitively. It allows people to be affirmed and encouraged in their journey of faith which allows us to join them on pilgrimage. This is not by pouring information into them but rather by arousing their curiosity and trust to be formed and transformed by the person of Christ. As missionaries, our simple “work” is to be ourselves in the way we live and become prayerfully aware of how God has already proceeded us and touched hearts. The work becomes simpler because we are called to listen with the eyes of the heart which notice where there is a revealed truth that God is present in this place. In this way, we are called to be companions who befriend others as they befriend us. Noticing that it is God who leads us and encounters in the simple acts of each day.
Fr. John Armstrong