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As the Scriptures tell us, on the night before He died, Jesus was deeply concerned about His disciples’ relationship with the world. As far as physical presence was concerned, He, Himself, would soon be leaving this world behind. But His followers would still be here, having to deal with the same world that had hated and crucified Him. After they had seen what the world did to Him, what would it do to them? How would they react? Perhaps they would try to run away and hide, or they might be tempted to blend in with the world. Either way the saving mission of Jesus for the world would be thwarted.
There is no doubt that this matter was very much on Jesus’ mind. As time was running out, with the cross only hours away, Jesus prayed about His Disciples’ relationship with the world and through that prayer He also prayed about our relationship to the world in 2014.
I believe that Jesus was praying that each and every one of us might literally saturate all of society, that we might be a part of its daily life, living in its neighborhoods, working in its market place, teaching in its schools, and participating in its political process. In other words what Jesus had in mind was a penetrating Christ-like presence, an invasion, if you please, in the world. Jesus wants you and I to be in the world of 2014 in the same way that He was in the world two thousand years ago, not to withdraw from it but to involve ourselves in it. He was an active, positive, and often times disturbing presence in society.
However, we must remember that although Jesus does not want us to withdraw from the world, He nonetheless does not want us to blend into it and become like it. The importance of this distinction becomes evident when we pause to consider its practical implications. One of the greatest obstacles to the progress of Christianity in the world is the fact that Christians and non-Christians are at times so much alike. It is often times virtually impossible to tell them apart. And that, my friends, is so very sad!! The average Catholic, in the church and out, neither dreadful sinners nor holy saints, is really quite difficult to tell us apart from the non-Christian.
The major difference between Jesus and the world of His time lay in His system of values and His way of relating to people. Any one person was worth more than all the money, pleasure, and power that the world can offer. Consequently, Jesus treated people with kindness and respect, even when they did not treat Him that way. He never became angry over petty issues, but His anger would flash like lightening against individuals and institutions that abused the values and principles taught by God.
All of us have both the opportunity and the responsibility to be Jesus’ presence in the world of 2014 by being in the world but not of it. How are you carrying out this responsibility and using all the opportunities at your disposal to bring Jesus to our community of Annunciation and to the world? Maybe it’s time for us to think and pray about it. Let us be determined to make the world a better place by teaching and living out the values and principles of Jesus. You and I are His witnesses in the world.
Father Robert F. Grippo