In the readings appointed for today, we find, from Psalm 48: 12 Walk about Zion, go all around it, count its towers, 13 consider well its ramparts; go through its citadels, that you may tell the next generation
14 that this is God, our God forever and ever. He will be our guide forever.
And then from Ezekiel: 2:3 He said to me, Mortal, I am sending you to the people of Israel, to a nation of rebels who have rebelled against me; they and their ancestors have transgressed against me to this very day.
2:4 The descendants are impudent and stubborn. I am sending you to them, and you shall say to them, “Thus says the Lord GOD.”
2:5 Whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house), they shall know that there has been a prophet among them.
And finally, from the Gospel according to Mark: 6:7 He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. 6:8 He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; 6:9 but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. 6:10 He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. 6:11 If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.” 6:12 So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent.
It would seem that we have a job to do. The constant theme throughout today’s readings is simple: Go and tell. Go and witness. Go and preach. Some of you may say, “Well this is fine, well, and good for those who are ministers, preachers, and priests. I am not called to preach, though. What am I supposed to do????” We will think about that in a few seconds.
Preaching is the very purpose of the Dominican Order, to which I belong. Our Order is even known as “The Order of Preachers.” And true, that in English, preaching means pulpit oratory, but St. Dominic did not name his Order in English, but in Latin – Ordo Praedicatores – meaning those who are engaged in “praedicatio.” If you look in a Latin dictionary you will find that “praedicatio” means “making known” or “proclamation.” This has a much broader, much wider meaning than mere pulpit oratory. ALL of us are called to preach, to proclaim. The very second that you accepted Christ into your heart, you were charged with the mission to become a preacher, a proclaimer, of the Gospel. Simply living your life as Christ has called you do live it is proclaiming the Gospel. We are not to be selfish, but to use what we are given to help each other, and to spread to the world the message of Christ’s redeeming love. This, as St. Dominic said, was essential for us if we were to give a good example to others. Nothing will win others more than our living our Christian lives, no matter how difficult it may be at times.
Another way of preaching that you can do, is the sharing of your faith with others. You are going to run into people, as I am sure you do all the time, who have a false and twisted idea of what true Christians believe. These people will challenge you. In these circumstances we should always follow St. Peter’s advice: Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence. (I Peter 3: 16b-17a) But to do this effectively you really have to know your religion thoroughly. There are so many false ideas out there about the true meaning of being a Christian, and about what Christ taught, about the Scriptures and about morals. When they present all kinds of false ideas about the Bible, how are you going to answer them? There are answers and it is incumbent on you, as a Christian, to know them.
Admittedly, none of these are spectacular or glamorous ways of preaching, but they are most effective ways. You may not feel that you have been effective and you may think you have failed to make any impression at all and, of course, you may not have. But you never know how God is going to use what you say and how you say it. We must keep in mind that rarely is one person responsible for the conversion of another. The process of conversion is something like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. People along the way slip in a piece or two until finally the puzzle is complete, but the picture is not finished until every single piece is in place. God may be asking you to put in only a few pieces but they are necessary pieces. You will not know, however, until the Last Judgment when you will see the whole picture, completed and perfect, just what great influence you have had. That is, perhaps, the only way that any of us are going to be able to see the results of our preaching. Let each one of us take seriously the charge of St. Paul: Proclaim the word; be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching. But you, be self-possessed in all circumstances; put up with hardship, perform the work of an evangelist; fulfill your ministry. (II Timothy 3: 2-5) If we do this, then we can say with him: I have fought the good fight; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith. From now on the crown of righteousness awaits me, which the Lord, the just judge, will award me on that day, and not only to me, but to all who have longed for his appearance. (II Timothy 3: 7 & 8)