Father Leslie Hoppe, OFM

July 30: 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Share the Gospel in ways new and old

1 Kgs 3:5, 7-12; Ps 119:57, 72, 76-77, 127-128, 129-130; Rom 8:28-30; Mt 13:44-52

“The substance of the ancient doctrine of the deposit faith is one thing, the way in which it is presented is another.” These words spoken by Pope St. John XXIII to the bishops assembled for the opening session of the Second Vatican Council are the 20th century equivalent of Jesus’ words that conclude today’s Gospel reading: “Then every scribe who has been instructed in the kingdom of heaven is the head of a household who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old” (Mt 13:52).

Pope John set before the church’s bishops the task that would occupy them for several years. They were to take the Good News of Jesus Christ and proclaim it anew to people who live in the world of today. This could not be done simply by repeating the words of the Gospel. The bishops were to show how the Gospel sheds light on the circumstances of contemporary life. The bishops took up the challenge that Pope John laid before them. They responded by producing a document whose opening words are, “The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of (people of) this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ” (“Gaudium et Spes,” 1). Along with bishops, all who preach and teach are to bring out from the church’s storehouse both the new and the old so that people can see their lives in the light of the Gospel.

Pope Francis has called all the Christian faithful to be “missionary disciples” whose lives bear witness to faith in Jesus Christ, the importance of faith in his life, not a vague faith in some abstraction but faith in living Christ. This faith is embodied in the lives of so many people who find life worth living because of their belief in Jesus Christ.

That is precisely the message that Paul gives us in today’s second reading: “We know that God makes all things work together for the good of those who love God” (Rom 8:28). These words are not pious make-believe suggesting that things will all work out in the end. The apostle’s words assure us about the future that God has in store for us based on what God has already done for us. Paul tells us that God has chosen us by an eternal decree — that God has justified us in Jesus Christ — and indeed that God has already glorified us by giving a share in God’s life at our baptism (Rom 8:30). 

The faith we have in God is that treasure, that pearl of great price that the Gospel reading speaks of. Although we ought to treat it like a treasure, it is not something that we hoard but something that we share. People who live by faith, who cherish the religious dimension of their lives, are in the best position to show the relevance of faith to life today. The documents and decrees that were products of Vatican II were an important step in proclaiming the Gospel in our day with our “joys and hopes, griefs and anxieties.” Still, there is no substitute for a life that is a testimony to the joy of the Gospel.

The great challenge the church faces in the United States and Europe is not unfriendly governments, schisms, secular culture or the diminishment of the clergy. An alarming number of Catholics no longer have a place for the church in their lives, asserting that they are “spiritual but not religious.” The Christian faithful need to hear again the words of Jesus as they respond to this challenge by bringing from their storehouse both what is old and what is new. They need to show their sisters and brothers that they share their joys and hopes, griefs and anxieties. They need to demonstrate the vital importance of a life of faith and the value of communion with those who recognize the importance of faith for a life worth living,

That is our challenge: to help our children, our friends, our neighbors see that our faith in Jesus Christ and the Gospel give meaning, purpose and value to our lives. Our faith is that pearl of great price that we want to help them recover.


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