HAVING THEMSELVES EXPERIENCED THE OVERWHELMING LOVE OF CHRIST, THEY BURNED TO SHARE IT WITH OTHERS.
Those two great missionaries, Paul and Barnabas, travelled widely, ceaselessly preaching the news of the Kingdom despite undergoing beatings, imprisonment and rejection. St Luke tells the story of their awesome undertakings, of how they cooperated with the Spirit to tell of Jesus Christ to the various communities. On fire with the love of Jesus, they overcame every obstacle, preaching ‘in season, out of season’. We get a marvellous glimpse of this in Chapter 14 of the Acts of the Apostles when, at the end of their first missionary journey after many difficulties, they arrive in Antioch. Bursting to tell the news, “they gathered the Church together and declared all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles” (Acts 14:27).
Having themselves experienced the overwhelming love of Christ, they burned to share it with others. “They put fresh heart into the disciples encouraging them to persevere in the faith” (Acts 14:22). The radical enthusiasm for sharing the faith which Paul radiated is at the heart of this Year of Faith. “Faith grows when it is lived as an experience of love received and when it is communicated as an experience of grace and joy.” In his letter ‘Porta Fidei’ (The Door of Faith), Pope Benedict goes on to quote the words of St Augustine, “Believers strengthen themselves by believing.”
We must not let the gift of faith given to us lie wrapped up like a precious jewel hidden in a safe. “Fan into a flame the gift God gave you” (2Tim 1:6), Paul writes to Timothy, advice to encourage us also. True faith is not adhering to a bulk of doctrine, but an encounter with a living Person, Jesus. Now is the time to respond with all our hearts, with all our energies, to his welcome, “Come and see” (Jn 1:39) and allow ourselves to be transformed by his grace. Getting to know and love the Lord, listening and responding to his word, is the first step on this lifelong journey. As our love for him overflows, others are drawn to share this faith.
This Year of Faith, the Pope writes, is a summons to an authentic and renewed conversion to the Lord. We are to radiate the Word of truth in our lives. We are invited to look at and be inspired and nourished by the great riches in the treasury of our faith. “The love of Christ urges us” (2Cor 5:17) to go through that open door and bring others with us. Let us not sit idly by but, as Paul, having reached the end of his life urged his faithful disciple Timothy, “let us stand by the truths we have learned” (2Tim 3:14).
– Published in “Far East”, Magazine of the Columban Missionaries, issue January/February 2013. Find out more about the Columban Missionaries at http://www.columbans.co.uk and http://www.columbansisters.org (external links).