Preaching as we walk

6 February 2022 5th Sunday Year C

According to the book, Life of Francis Assisi, Francis once invited a young monk to join him on a trip to town to preach. Honoured to receive the invitation, the monk readily accepted. All day long he and Francis walked through the streets, byways, and alleys. They rubbed shoulders with hundreds of people.

At day’s end, the two went home. Not once had Francis addressed a crowd, nor had he talked to anyone about the gospel. Disappointed, his young companion said, “I thought we were going into town to preach.”

Francis responded, “My son, we have preached. We were preaching while we were walking. We were seen by many, and our behaviour was watched. It is of no use to walk anywhere to preach unless we preach everywhere as we walk!” 

We too are called to bear witness to Christ through our lives. Rarely will it mean explicitly explaining why we believe, although there may be such opportunities, our primary witness will be through the example of our lives and our prayer for others. However, we can learn from the example of those great figures who have given witness in trying circumstances.

The prophet Isaiah told the Lord that he was not up to the task, but God empowered him, and he became a messenger to the people of Israel despite his feeling of inadequacy. His mission was to call people to renew their relationship with God. It was not an easy mission and he experienced opposition and rejection, but he also gave the people hope at a time when their nation was crumbling under the assault of the Assyrians in the eight century BCE.

Saul the persecutor, becomes Paul the preacher and missionary. He writes to the Corinthian community telling them again the story of Jesus who lived and died for the forgiveness of our sins who has been raised to new life. This Jesus appears to the apostles and disciples and gives them the strength to bear witness just as Paul has been doing since his conversion.

Our gospel tells the familiar story of Jesus teaching the crowd from the boat of Peter. When he had finished teaching, he invites the weary fishermen to put out into deep water where they catch an enormous number of fish and Jesus invites them to spend their lives not in catching fish but in reaching out to people with the message of the Good News.

Jesus, the Apostles, and Paul, all bear witness by word and deed. Isaiah, a reluctant prophet, also bears witness of God’s message to the people of Israel. Although there may be occasions when we share with others our story and our reasons for belief, it will be the witness of our lives that speaks more eloquently and consistently to our family friends and acquaintances.

A quotation often attributed to St Francis reminds us: “Preach the Gospel at all times. If necessary, use words.”

Michael A Kelly

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