By Pedro Mendez
Connecting Faith and Life
The events that happened after Jesus’ resurrection and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost are speechless — the disciples of Jesus bravely proclaimed the Good News of salvation amid religious, social and political dangers. They did it boldly, yet with love. Empowered by God’s Spirit, the disciples of Jesus and the early converts, like St. Paul, did not proclaim a sophisticated and robust theological/doctrinal message as we know it today. Their message was quite simple: Jesus of Nazareth is the Lord and Messiah, we are witnesses of it, and we share our experience with you so that you can also be his disciples and have eternal life in him! Their message was accompanied by works of wonders in Jesus’ name and by sharing “what” Jesus’ death and resurrection “had done” in their lives. Paul affirms: “I regard everything as loss (the Greek word rubbish means excrement) because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Phil 3:8).
The proclamation of the Gospel still has this disarming simplicity. The crucified and risen Jesus is the Gospel that gives new life, destroys all structures of sin (personal, family and social) and the Evil One, and heals the wounds caused by our imperfections and sins. It seems that we, the Church of Christ, need to go back to the simplicity of the Gospel again and again as the Holy Spirit continues to lead us to the whole Truth and as the Church continues to advocate for the poor, to develop robust theological/doctrinal/philosophical arguments, and to learn how to place the focus on the centrality of our salvation.
We go back to the simplicity of the Gospel by playing our role in the Body of Christ. Our role is quite simple: to experience the power of Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection and to share that experience with others. How are we experiencing the power of the cross in our daily life circumstances? Are there areas in our lives that are dying? Is there any structure of sin slaving within us? Is the Evil One trying “to turn us away” from God? Are there emotional/spiritual wounds that need to be healed? If so, we have the opportunity to experience the power of the cross. We might also understand what Paul meant by “the message of the cross” (1 Cor 18). As we surrender our lives to the crucified and risen Christ, we are ready to proclaim, as the First Letter of St. John declares, “What we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life.”(1 Jn 1: 1). This is why spiritual retreats are so important — they put us in contact with Christ’s love and his transformative power.
The simplicity of the Gospel is so important in my daily life as a husband, a father, a parishioner, and a chaplain that I cannot see myself without it. I experience the darkness of spiritual death, my limited/imperfect humanity, the structure of sins in my soul, the temptations that God allows the Evil One to place on my way, and the painful wounds caused by my sins and mistakes of the past. But I also experience the power of Jesus’s death and resurrection giving new life amid chaos, delivering me at times of temptation, and drawing me to the cross and the resurrection for forgiveness, consolation and hope when I sin and feel despaired. The Sacraments play an essential role by bringing the mystery of Jesus’ cross and resurrection to my daily life circumstances.
So, I am a witness of Jesus who is the Lord and Messiah, the deliverer, the healer, the generous provider, the comforter, the refuge, and my hope and nourishment for the journey to come. If someone asks you who Jesus is from your own experience of his cross and resurrection, what would you say? Would you proclaim the Gospel living in you, and make disciples of his? I bet your family, parish and colleagues hope so!