In the first month of joining the seminary, the thirteen of us in my class were each asked to pick a book for “spiritual reading”. The priest in charge of our class put out some books for us to pick from. I recall vividly picking the book, ‘Introduction to the Devout Life’ by St Francis de Sales. I still do not know why I picked this book, perhaps it was the attractive cover.
Unlike St Francis of Assisi or St Francis Xavier who are the more well-known saints, I had not heard of this Francis (de Sales) but yet I picked this book as my “first” spiritual reading book in the seminary. St Francis de Sales is not known by many but among his popular and often used quote is, “A spoonful of honey attracts more flies than a barrelful of vinegar”. In his ministry, St Francis de Sales quickly earned a reputation for being kind and understanding, an excellent speaker who attracted people to the faith.
The gist of today’s gospel is to not be afraid to “preach” the gospel at all times and in all situations. Jesus, well aware of what His disciples-apostles will face when they will later go out to proclaim the good news He taught them, prepares them for the trials and tribulations that will beset them. He assures them that they will not be alone during these times and to not let fear cripple them from making the gospel known to all.
In his book, Life After the Pandemic by Pope Francis, he picks for us the theme of ‘Why be Afraid’ and presents different reflections. One such reflection that caught my attention was the words, “After what we have already been through this year, we should not be afraid to venture out on new paths and propose innovative solutions.”
In some ways, the Pope is proposing that in this new normal we should not be just longing to go back to our old ways or be led by a sense of nostalgia. Reading this book seems to invite the Church to come out of our comfort zones, from the walls that we have built and put ourselves cosily inside over the years and set out to seek ‘new paths’ and find ‘innovative solutions’ to make the gospel known to the world.
Though proclaiming the gospel in an explicit manner may be counter-productive in some situations, but attracting people to the gospel is something that we all can do – both in extraordinary and ordinary ways. The gospel in itself must be attractive and the only way to make it so is by bringing it to life in our daily lives. Our mission must be to bring the Gospel message alive in today’s world – to neither be afraid nor shy to live it.
Jesus reminds us today, ‘if anyone declares himself for me, I will declare myself for him in the presence of my Father in heaven.’ The greatest accolade that any one of us can receive is to hear God say to us, “This is my beloved child with whom I am well pleased!” In all things, let us strive to be that “spoonful of honey” that attracts people to Jesus, our Lord and Master. Amen.