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Sebastian GomesJuly 13, 2023
person reading book on brown wooden tablePhoto by Priscilla Du Preez, courtesy of Unsplash.

A Reflection for Thursday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time

You can find today’s readings here.

“As you go, make this proclamation: ‘The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, drive out demons. Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give.” (Mt 10:7-8)

When I decided to study theology in college, it was mainly because I loved the engrossing conversations about human nature and ultimate reality that theology provoked. And in my mind, the best way to immerse myself in those conversations long-term was to become a teacher. Rather unexpectedly, my theology degree landed me in the world of media. But I often tell people that creating media content is just another way of teaching, only with a much bigger classroom. There is an inherent spiritual danger in teaching, though, and especially teaching theology, whether you’re in the classroom or on Youtube.

For me, the most challenging aspect of theology was never conceptual but personal. My mentors often recited to me the ancient adage, “the longest journey is from the head to the heart.” It’s one thing to love and share those engrossing conversations, but it’s another to let the reality and love of God engross you. At some point, the teaching, the conversations and the content must all give way to a deeper relationship. Theology, as the theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar taught, is done on one's knees.

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus entrusted his twelve disciples with their specific mission. There wasn’t much in there about teaching. There was a lot in there about doing.

I’ve since learned that there’s another “long journey” in the lives of self-described teachers: from the head to the hands. Perhaps this is best articulated in the famous words associated with the life of St. Francis of Assisi: “Preach the Gospel at all times, and if necessary use words.” History recorded that St. Francis was in fact a great teacher and wisdom figure, whose counsel was sought by his brother Friars and many others. But his greatest lessons were not spoken, written or tweeted. They were done in service of the poor.

Welcome to the two great life journeys of the disciple. In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus entrusted his twelve disciples with their specific mission. They were to go and proclaim: “the kingdom of God is at hand.” They were to “cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, drive out demons.” There wasn’t much in there about teaching. There was a lot in there about doing.

We live in a culture saturated with content and opinions. We’re inundated with them. Everyone, it seems, has become a self-proclaimed teacher with something to say. But my years of studying theology and working in the media have taught me that it’s not really about what I say. In fact, if we take Jesus at his word in today’s Gospel, we should probably be suspicious of those who only theologize, talk and opine. Perhaps today we should all do something to build the kingdom. Then we’ll talk.

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