Gospel Response: Making “Now” Now

Behold, now is a very acceptable time;

behold, now is the day of salvation.

–2 Corinthians 6:2b, Gospel Acclamation of Monday of the First Week of Lent

The verse before today’s Gospel makes one thing quite clear–God is ready for any person’s conversion. Right here, right now. There are no “just okay” moments to come before the Lord, repenting and believing in God and his love poured out in Jesus Christ, savior of all humankind. Now is a very acceptable time. Now is the day of salvation.

Yet this awesome, open door to salvation from our sins and lifelong relationship with Jesus Christ remains in the abstract unless an individual responds. Simply being present to hear that it’s the day of salvation doesn’t mean a person actually responds. Being in the presence of others who are indeed responding means nothing if I, personally, am not converting–turning my heart to God and giving it to him for the first time, or in a new way.

As human beings we often act out abstract concepts like “responding to God” or “conversion” in concrete ways. And this is a good thing. It’s one of the reasons God gives us visible signs of his grace, called sacraments, to make his holy and divine mysteries tangible to us through earthly means.

However, for the baptized and non-baptized who are not evangelized and have not made a fundamental and foundational response to Jesus Christ as a disciple and follower, many of our sacramental responses to God may go unnoticed. Take Mass for example. How many people attend Mass any given Sunday without realizing that our sacrifice of praise, thanksgiving, and participation in the Eucharist is a response to the Good News of salvation God speaks to us through holy Scripture? Though it may only be 20 minutes between the proclamation and preaching of a passage of Scripture and our participation in the Eucharist, for many the perception of connection is not as explicit as the reality indeed is.

The New Evangelization calls us not to complain about this situation, but to instead be proactive, using new methods to transmit the same, unchanging Gospel of Jesus Christ to all those we encounter, especially at Mass. This past weekend at Mass [at Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish in Plymouth, MI], the priest ended his preaching with a specific, concrete invitation to response–inviting all who wished to kneel and pray silently a line from that day’s Gospel, Jesus, “If you wish, you can make me clean” (Mark 1:40). He encouraged us to have faith that God can indeed make each of us clean, no matter our previous failings or missteps. But the key was, he then gave everyone the space to make the response. Right then, right there. Now is the day of salvation had a concrete time, place, and setting for all who heard his preaching.

I share this example as merely one method of offering specific means of response to those who hear our Gospel proclamation. Whether within a liturgical celebration (like Mass) or a parish event (like an annual “mission”), part of our call to the New Evangelization is discerning effective ways to make sure conditions are optimal for response. While we dare not seek or hope to control the inner workings of the Holy Spirit as God speaks to individuals in our midst, we must not turn from our role in making sure that it is true, explicit, and abundantly clear that practically and tangibly, now is a very acceptable time, now is the day of salvation for all those we encounter.

Note: This post also appeared at NewEvangelizers.Com

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