Homily for Sunday, January 23
Jesus: A Style of Evangelizing.
Today’s gospel tells us of the start of the public life of Jesus. We can’t have a more humble or simple beginning. It was nothing like the great ceremonies that we like to do these days to mark the beginning of great events. We think of the great inaugural ceremonies, for example, the Olympic Games where the host country displays its prowess. Also in the Church we love the big liturgical ceremonies with plenty of people in attendance.
At time these grandiose ceremonies – civil and church ones – with thousands and thousands of participants seem more for show than reality. They look like a film set where the houses are nothing more than a façade. That of Jesus’ inauguration began in a very different way. Very different. It was far from grandiose.
No programmed speeches and certainly not thousands of guests, no security arrangements, no fireworks nor so many things required to stage these events. Jesus withdrew to Galilee and there began going from village to village preaching the most simple message you can imagine: “Change, convert, because the Kingdom of Heaven is near.”
A small, humble light.
The evangelist, perhaps worried by the extreme simplicity of the message saw the need to adorn this beginning for the public life of Jesus with a quotation from the prophet Isaiah that says “the people that lived in darkness have seen a great light.” But the reality is that the presence of Jesus was not a great light in the way imagine. It was a small, humble, simple light. The presence of Jesus resembled more a flickering wick that a large spotlight that dazzles. His light didn’t blind but opened people’s eyes so that they better understood the world and above all welcomed into their heart God’s great mercy. It was totally a one to one relationship brought about by drawing close through friendship and brotherly love.
As in the mystery of Christmas that we have recently celebrated the presence of God in Jesus is not an overwhelming presence. It does not invade our freedom nor cancels us out as persons. On the contrary God reveals himself in such a simple way that might pass unnoticed. Just as at Christmas we contemplate the small, fragile child, weak, powerless and, like all children, totally dependent on our care, now he is more man who goes along the roads approaching those he meets, inviting them to change their lives because the Kingdom of God is near letting them feel through his contact and his affection the power of God’s love. He has neither security guards nor loud speakers. He doesn’t gather crowds nor is he all powerful. He presents himself as an ordinary man.
The seduction of closeness.
But those that meet with him and open their eyes and heart feel that there is something different about this man. They themselves are ordinary. They have names and surnames. They are simple, uneducated fishermen. But his presence has this something that makes these persons take radical and sometimes seemingly irrational decisions. At Jesus’ proposal that they follow him in order to be “fishers of men”, they immediately leave their nets and follow him. This man had something that was capable of seducing with few words. There was something they saw in him because it is certain that these fishermen did not understand much of what he said nor of what it meant to follow him.
So the ministry of Jesus began in a humble and simple way. In this manner of approaching without force and grandeur, without long speeches like the worldly powerful men are accustomed to; God makes himself present to us. He walks along side us curing the sickness and sufferings of the people and invites us to live in his Kingdom.
Today we are his witnesses in this world right where each of us lives. Our ministry must imitate Jesus’ style, his simplicity and closeness. You don’t need huge programs and attractions. Neither is it necessary to go counting and recounting the results. To Jesus this was not important. It is enough to announce the Kingdom and touch the hearts of the people we meet and leave the imprint of God’s love and mercy with them.