Fourth Sunday of Lent: New Evangelization
Lectionary Readings: (summery from the “Biblical Meditations for Lent” By Fr. Carroll Stuhlmueller, CP)
- 1 Samuel 16:1, 6-7, 10-13. God judges not by external appearances but by what he sees in the heart. David, young, spontaneous and innocent is preferred to his older and stronger brothers. After his anointing the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon him.
- Ephesians 5:8-14. Live as children of “light [which] produces every kind of goodness and justice and truth.”
- John 9:1-41. On the Sabbath Jesus mixed spittle with dirt, and with the mud he restored sight to a man blind from birth. This man was later rejected from the synagogue for confessing Jesus as Messiah.
Thoughts for your consideration: By John Gonzalez
The internet age has revolutionized global communications and information sharing. With the situations in Africa and Asia the impact of barrier free communications is already making a tremendous social impact. Former state secrets and Government manipulation of information are now subjected to a form of technological transparency never before experienced. This social reality offers an interesting context for the admonition by St. Paul in the second reading for this week:
Take no part in the fruitless works of darkness; rather expose them, for it is shameful even to mention the things done by them in secret; but everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for everything that becomes visible is light.
The motives and political intents that have directed national policies are being exposed. The opinions of the people however are also finding a vast market of exposure through these same communication technologies. With the advent of wikis, blogs and social networks people are able to publically express their own opinion on every topic under the sun. Religious blogs are out there in droves and they offer a faith perspective from every viewpoint imaginable. The internet may reveal national motives and intents but it is still difficult to identify the motives and intent of individual bloggers. The question that we must ask ourselves is how can we discern the consistent Gospel message in light of this new form of evangelization?
In the Gospel passage Jesus had to confront the dark motive and intents of the Pharisees. His action was plain and simple, he healed the blind man. Jesus’ ministry of healing was very much part of this divine mission of bringing sight to the blind both spiritually and physically. The Pharisees choked on literal interpretations and rituals in an attempt to dismiss the Good News of God’s healing hope for all people. They also claimed authority through the name of Moses in order to create division and tension by trying to suggest that any disciple of Christ has abandoned the teachings of Moses and our thus thrown out of the synagogues. Jesus embraces the humble blind man who accepts the simple goodness of God’s work and rebukes the Pharisees who are blinded by their own self righteousness.
In the first reading God reminds the prophet Samuel that He does not perceive nor evaluates us the way we humans do. While we judge by external qualities God “looks into the heart.” The young David may not have the leadership stature that Eliab has but God obviously sees a great potential within this humble and innocent youth. The quality of leadership is not measured in how they rule but in how they serve. David does not look to rule but to serve the people of Israel. Similarly Paul tells us in another letter that the mission of Christ was not to be served but to serve:
“Though he was in the form of God, [Jesus] did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave… he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:6-8)
So it is that are faith calls us to serve the suffering human community through a message of charity, healing and unity. Through the forms of social communication many people including myself have undertaken the ministry of new evangelization to promote the Good News of Christ. But again the motive must be seen as consistent with the Gospel message. Messages based on division, fear and judgment are antithetical to the Gospel message of inclusion, hope and forgiveness.
Pope Benedict XVI has carried on the tradition of offering an annual message in observance of World Communication Day. His recent messages have offered guidance on the use of the new media technology to promote the ministry of new evangelization that is consistent with the Gospel tradition. In the 2009 message Pope Benedict XVI offers the following admonition which offers a good guidance for discerning the Good News within this new social media.
I would encourage all people of good will who are active in the emerging environment of digital communication to commit themselves to promoting a culture of respect, dialogue and friendship. Those who are active in the production and dissemination of new media content, therefore, should strive to respect the dignity and worth of the human person. If the new technologies are to serve the good of individuals and of society, all users will avoid the sharing of words and images that are degrading of human beings, that promote hatred and intolerance, that debase the goodness and intimacy of human sexuality or that exploit the weak and vulnerable.