You can imagine how eagerly the apostles set out in small groups to preach the Gospel of Christ. They had seen Jesus draw huge crowds, heal people from illness and sin and give them new enthusiasm to do God’s will. Now they were to represent him and they did so gladly, preaching a radical gospel-inspired change of lifestyle. They were to overcome evil by introducing Jesus into the conversation in opposition to the devil’s temptations. It meant persevering when opposition was greatest. It did not mean doing just anything they liked. In sports language it meant doing the hard training and making tough decisions to represent the team well.
Unfortunately, many people don’t want to listen to the truth. Look at the experience of Amos the prophet. Some responded to him very abruptly when he called them to change their extravagant lifestyle. “We don’t need you disturbing everyone with your complaints about injustice and misbehaviour. Keep religion for Church ceremonies. We have enough worries without feeling guilty about having a good time”. But Amos kept on talking to them about the importance of living in faithfulness to God’s will. His challenging message of faith is still relevant today as we hear from Pope Francis. He calls on Catholics to focus on promoting peace by peaceful means. In a confused world compassionate carers and healers are needed more than ever. Look how Jesus directly asked the apostles to anoint and cure. Those today who care for the sick are doing first class Christian work; they relieve pain and enable the sick to retain their dignity. Despite their illness the sick and the weak can trust themselves totally to God’s mercy and join in working with Christ for the salvation of the world. Prayer and action bring physical healing; patients find strength to bear their burdens and even become an example of self-sacrificing courage to the world.
Pope Francis has also recently spoken out against unjust discrimination against gay people and called for better ways to engage in conversation so all can be better informed and walk together respectfully to a better future. It is good that conversation is sought by all involved. June was LGBTQ month on the media. I watched a well-researched documentary about the progress in understanding homosexuality better and overcoming prejudices. Unfortunately it did include gay activists aggressively promoting free love and sexual licence while demanding free medication as the ready solution for AIDS. Self-indulgence in this area should be openly rejected just as much as we all deplore widespread exploitation of trafficked women, casual sex, pornography and prostitution.
In dialogue honesty and clarity are essential, so Pope Francis begins with the Gospel truth that marriage is meant for a man and woman who pledge constant love and faithfulness to each other and are open to having children. Any other arrangement is unsatisfactory, especially if it means introducing third parties into marriage, promoting surrogacy with all the commercial exploitation attached and the immoral loss of embryos. Just as Covid rules help preserve health so church rules preserve morality.
To overcome evil requires unselfish detachment from this world. Like Pope John XXIII we are to be ready to go home to God at any time. “Any day is a good day to be born and any day is a good day to die”. Living a simple life is the best way to convince others to trust themselves totally to God. Jesus appeals to you and me to improve society by taking on responsibility to build up God’s kingdom through conversion to Christ’s ways, by healing mind and body and by struggling against evil. The first step is to listen and learn, to acknowledge differences and ask for Christ’s guidance along the way.