Gospel for the Feast of St. Cyril and Methodius
After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them out ahead of him in pairs, to all the towns and places he himself would be visiting. And he said to them, ‘The harvest is rich but the labourers are few, so ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to do his harvesting. Start off now, but look, I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Take no purse with you, no haversack, no sandals. Salute no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, let your first words be, “Peace to this house!” And if a man of peace lives there, your peace will go and rest on him; if not, it will come back to you. Stay in the same house, taking what food and drink they have to offer, for the labourer deserves his wages; do not move from house to house. Whenever you go into a town where they make you welcome, eat what is put before you. Cure those in it who are sick, and say, “The kingdom of God is very near to you.”
Again and again the mission must be spoken of, because it is a command of the Lord Himself. If it were to be neglected or transformed beyond recognition, hope would die and man would be plunged into the darkness of many errors.
Are we Christians sufficiently aware of the fact that the salvation of souls is at stake and that salvation in Christ is to be proclaimed to all men? Has not a spirit penetrated our Church which would call this conviction and the zeal which derives from it exaggerated and proselytising? If we look closely, we will see that little is said about mission in the sense in which it was understood and practised by the two saints of today, Cyril and Methodius, who tirelessly proclaimed the Gospel to the Slavs.
But how can apostolic zeal be rekindled? There is no other way than by remembering every day that the Lord Himself left us the command to “make disciples of all nations” (Mt 28:19-20), and that it is the Will of God that the Gospel be brought in all its fullness to mankind. It is not our preferences and inclinations that are in the foreground, but the plan of the Lord, who honours us by calling us to cooperate in the work of salvation.
If apostolic zeal has diminished in our Church, we should examine what is the cause and what kind of spirit is at work here, relativising the absolute importance of the proclamation of the Gospel for the salvation of souls. What kind of spirit is it that wants to lead us to be more concerned with people’s material and social well-being than with their eternal salvation? Of course we must also be concerned about the former, but never at the expense of the primacy of the eternal salvation of souls. This is the most important thing!
I was recently sent a sermon in which the primacy of the salvation of souls was very clearly shown. To underline it, the priest gave a very moving example, speaking about the sinking of the Titanic. The gigantic British ship was the largest of its time, a miracle of technology and the pride of its builders. It was said to be unsinkable, and some probably saw it as a victory of human technology, even a triumph over God… Thus, some of those who worked on the construction of the ship made inscriptions on its walls with phrases such as: “We don’t need God or the Pope”; “Not even Christ can sink this ship”, among other blasphemies. Although these inscriptions were covered with varnish, most of them became visible again. The captain also blasphemed during lunch….
However, the “unsinkable ship” hit an iceberg on its maiden voyage and sank. There were not enough lifeboats for all the passengers, so many of them had to face death. There were also three priests on board. They gave up the possibility of saving their lives and preferred to stay with the people who were still on the boat or sinking in the water, praying with them and listening to their confessions.
These “titanic” priests had understood what was at stake at that moment: the salvation of souls. Their earthly life could no longer be saved, but their eternal life could.
The priest who gave this example in the sermon pointed out that, in the midst of this misfortune, not a few people turned to God in their last hour, and that the Lord can use even such a tragedy for the salvation of souls.
It is certainly a very dramatic situation. But we do not know for sure whether something similar will not happen to us. Are we prepared to stand before the Face of God?
But this event should not only lead us to reflect on our own salvation, but even more so on that of other people… If they have refused to believe, even though the Gospel has been proclaimed to them, what is left for them when the time of their death approaches? Doesn’t the present situation of the world resemble that of the transatlantic giant? Is it not that God allows certain plagues so that people will call upon Him and be converted? But who will tell them where they can find God and how great is His love for them? Where are those who, knowing that they are sent by the Lord, will tell the shipwrecked ship of the world where salvation is and what really counts in life?
In the context of the “7-year mission”, which I briefly explained in my last conference (https://youtu.be/na7gKMDnyb0?t=539), our prayer intention during the month of February is to ask the Lord to send labourers into His harvest, as Jesus exhorts us to do in today’s gospel: “The harvest is rich but the labourers are few, so ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to do his harvesting.”
Workers are needed who proclaim the Gospel without cutting corners and who are convinced that the Lord’s message is incomparably important for the salvation of souls. If we know that we are sent by the Lord and are concerned about the salvation of souls, these two aspects should be our deepest motivation to do everything in our power to serve God and man.
May the Lord inflame the workers in His harvest with apostolic zeal, as He did with the two brothers Cyril and Methodius and with the heroic priests on the Titanic, for whom the salvation of souls was more important than their own earthly life!