Promise and Hope and Tenderness
Today’s Gospel, from Jesus’ Final Discourse to his disciples at the Last Supper, is filled with promise and hope and tenderness. Jesus is trying to encourage his followers for a time when he will no longer be physically present to them. I like to remember that these are the men who have argued among themselves who is number one, or they have asked to be the ones who sit at his right and left, then want to call down a scorched-earth policy (fire and brimstone) because Samaria didn’t offer them a warm welcome! Another disciple chastised Jesus for voicing his destiny to be suffering and death, and eventually another will say he’ll never believe until he sees.
Today’s first reading reminds us that the opposite is true: we will never see until we first believe. Maybe the jailer is transformed by Paul and Silas for the same reason that the centurion is transformed on Golgotha. He recognizes the Christ because he first was open and receptive to the promise and hope and tenderness.
Lately, when I think of witnessing to the Gospel, I can’t help but think of Pope Francis. His words – whether to women religious or gays and lesbians, Muslim prison inmates or Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli President Shimon Peres – are filled with encouragement. Most of us are called to evangelize, not by ringing doorbells or disseminating religious literature or preaching on a downtown street corner. We proclaim the Good News – whether at home with family, at work with colleagues and clients, or at leisure with friends – by nurturing an atmosphere of compassion and mercy – promise and hope and tenderness.
Fr. Jack Conley, C.P. is the director of the Office of Mission Effectiveness. He is a member of the Passionist formation community at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago.