Grace to you!
We continue our reflections based on the First Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians.
If you've been involved in bearing witness to Christ through preaching, you may have noticed this experience. When you suppose you are well prepared and have all the logic to demonstrate your faith, that's when you get the coldest responses from your listeners. Whereas, there are many moments you feel unequipped, though your heart is attuned to the Lord, those moments, the Lord takes over and speaks through you in ways you can't explain. Sometimes, it may not be your words that touch people. It could be spirit-filled non-verbal cues.
Eloquence is an excellent skill in communicating the gospel. However, it isn't our eloquence that stirs the heart. Neither is it the excellence of our evangelization methods that renew souls for the Lord. It is Christ himself who transforms the heart.
Think about your faithful grandma or grandpa at home, for instance. Or those faithful who come to Mass every day and offer their prayers for our intentions. They may not know the different theological traditions and arguments. Yet, they love the Lord with the tenderness of first love.
Instead of what the Swiss theologian, Hans Ur von Balthasar, calls "Kneeling Theology" that contemplates and prays as it theologizes, many of us focus on a theology of the head engaged with methods and procedures without a heart in love with the Lord. We may have the best knowledge about theology and yet not be in love with the Christ about whom we theologize. The scholar who investigates the theological themes is not necessarily a person of faith. The person is simply a scholar. Great and redeeming theology is that of the head and the heart combined.
Saint Paul, arguably, is the most prolific of all the early Church evangelizers. His mission as a witness of the Christ throughout his first, second, and third missionary journeys plus his writings leave us with incredible resources to ponder.
From his missionary journeys, he learned what is most important in the work of evangelization. Perhaps, his humbling mission in Athens, where he used the philosophical style of the Athenians in proposing Christ as "the unknown God" at the Areopagus (Acts 17:16-34), plus the shocking news of unhealthy rivalry in Corinth, where he preached after he left Athens (Acts 18:1), may have taught him a lesson. Notwithstanding his sophistry in Athens, he made the fewest converts of all his missions. Despite his powerful witness in Corinth, unhealthy rivalry and worldliness were tearing the community apart in less than two years.
Experience taught the apostle Paul, and he learned the most important thing about evangelization. It isn't the rigors of our words that matter. It is bearing witness to Christ himself. The flourishing of the faith is in keeping Christ's message and his cross at the heart of the faith community. Power and healing flow from these.
He tells the Corinthian church as he reminds us: “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified … and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Cor 2:2-5).
Therefore, in our various ways of evangelization, let’s keep Christ at the center.
May we know Christ and the power of his cross and resurrection. Amen.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Monday Week 22 Ordinary Time 1 Cor 2:1-5; Lk 4:16-30]
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Author and Goal
Father Maurice Emelu PhD., provides a daily blog of reflections based on the Scriptural readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. The goal is to teach, inspire, encourage, and foster healing through the grace of God's word. They are written in a language that is appropriate for a general audience. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration, and developing your thoughts. They may also be useful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.