Preaching and Listening


There is something a little humorous to me in today’s Gospel reading. It begins with Jesus appearing to Mary Magdalene, who tells others of the Resurrection, and they do not believe her. Then he appears to two disciples on the road, who tell others, and they don’t believe them either. Finally Jesus appears to these same disciples and:

“But later, as the Eleven were at table, he appeared to them
and rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart
because they had not believed those
who saw him after he had been raised.
He said to them, “Go into the whole world
and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.” (Mt 18:14-15)

What comes next for the Eleven? Probably the same experience as in the earlier instances: not to be believed. In a way, the joke is on them. It’s rather like the irony of St Paul being a person whose life was devoted to maintaining Jewish orthodoxy, protecting the faith of his childhood, and then after his conversion, being missioned to the Gentiles in particular. God has a sense of humor.

The passage continues the theme of this whole week: the response to knowing Christ is to pass it on to others. However, there is also the theme of whether we really believe others when we listen to their experiences of God. For example, in inter religious dialogue and among Christians alike, people can be defensive about their own beliefs. However,part of communication is preaching, but the other part is really listening. Jesus not only tells the disciples to preach, but also rebukes them for not listening to others’ experiences or putting any stock in them.

The reason is that no one’s experience of God is complete. Mary Magdalene probably say or understood something in her encounter with the risen Lord that the others did not see; and vice versa. Whom do we exclude in the Church, or even place outside of it, and write off as not having anything to say to us about God?

Matthew’s gospel reminds us that there is an invitation in sharing of our faith, and also being receptive to learning something new in the faith of others.