Knowing Jesus is a privilege and a joy, but it is also a duty and a responsibility; he has to be shared, he has to be proclaimed.
First Reading: Job 7:1-4, 6-7
Psalm: Psalm 146(147):1-6
Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 9:16-19, 22-23
Gospel: Mark 1:29-39
“Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” (1 Corinthians 9:16 ESV) – this is the cry of St. Paul in today’s passage from 1 Corinthians 9.
There is something of the prophet Jeremiah in St. Paul:
“If I say, “I will not mention him,
or speak any more in his name”,
there is in my heart as it were a burning fire
shut up in my bones,
and I am weary with holding it in,
and I cannot.” (Jeremiah 20:9 ESV)
Isn’t that an extraordinarily provocative image? Jeremiah tried to spare himself the inconvenience, the trouble, and even the danger of sharing God’s word, but the more he tried to keep quiet, the more persistently the need to speak burned within him and wore down his resolve. It seems to me that Paul had a similar experience; he speaks in today’s passage of the need to share the gospel as being a “duty” and a “responsibility” laid upon him without his own choice.
That responsibility to share the gospel led Paul to constant attempts to enculturate the message into whatever context he found himself in. Paul made himself “all things to all people” by finding ways to communicate this burning message in whatever way he could.
Even in the gospel, we hear that Jesus came in order to preach, and he was eager to keep moving around the villages and towns of Galilee to proclaim the message of the Kingdom.
What kind of a message could inspire that kind of tenacity and urgency? We need to return to that gospel constantly, no matter how many times we’ve heard it before, because as Pope Francis succinctly put it: “Christ is the ‘eternal Gospel’ (Revelation 14:6); he ‘is the same yesterday and today and forever’ (Hebrews 13:8), yet his riches and beauty are inexhaustible. He is forever young and a constant source of newness” (Evangelii Gaudium, 11).
The gospel is Jesus. It is who he is, the Son of God, through whom we have access to the Father and the life of the Trinity, the one who has taken our humanity up and enabled us to be truly children of God. It is what he did in becoming incarnate of the Virgin Mary, living among us, dying on the Cross, and rising again to offer us eternal life and salvation.
Knowing Jesus is a privilege and a joy, but it is also a duty and a responsibility; we can’t selfishly cling to him to the exclusion of others, he has to be shared, he has to be proclaimed. The true and eternal life he offers is for everyone, and it is your responsibility, laid upon you by that same Jesus, to proclaim him to all peoples. In doing so, you play your part in the ever-growing Kingdom of God.