FEAST OF THE ASCENSION

Playing Music to the Ox

First Reading : ( Acts 1:1-11 ): The Ascension of the Lord
Second Reading : ( Eph 4:1-13 ) : We should maintain the Church's unity
Gospel : ( Mk 16:15-20 ) : Jesus sent the apostles to preach to all peoples
Chinese Classics:
- :My studies lie low and my penetration rises high.;(1)

:Gong Ming Yi played a piece of beautiful music on the horn for the ox. The ox paid no attention to him and just kept eating. It was not that the ox couldn't hear it, it was just that the music did not attract it. Gong Ming Yi changed the tune and made it sound like mosquitoes and insects and the moos of young calves. The ox immediately wagged its tail and twirled its ears, and listened attentively to the sound.;(2)

Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation. The one who believes and is baptized will be saved; but the one who does not believe will be condemned... So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went out and proclaimed the good news everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that accompanied it. (Mk 16:15-20 )

The Scriptures seldom mention .preaching・, it more often talks about .proclaiming the gospel・. There is a difference between preaching and proclaiming the gospel. .Preaching・ or .teaching・ refers to religion; it emphasizes an external, visible organization. The best result of preaching of course is to lead people to .enter a religion・. The .Gospel・ refers to the good news of Jesus Christ. This emphasizes an interior, motivational spirit which is Christ・s spirit. The result leads people to live according to the spirit of Christ on different levels. It means that starting with an appreciation of the thinking of Christ, one proceeds to becoming a full-fledged follower of Christ.

We easily confuse preaching and proclamation of the gospel, most often equating preaching with proclaiming or evangelizing, thinking that to lead people to enter the Christian religion is the same as proclaiming the Gospel or evangelizing.

When we proclaim the Gospel, it is even more important that we witness to the Gospel. If we want to proclaim the gospel to those who are not Christian, they must be able to see it, to see in our lives the possibility and practicality, the beauty and loftiness, the greatness of the spirit of the Gospel.

We need, too, to discover seeds of the gospel in the lives of those who are not Christian, so that they can see in their own lives the spirit of Christ. All that God has put into their lives is the beginning of accepting Christ's gospel.

In the 1989 document issued by the Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education, :The Religious Dimension of Catholic Schools,; there is a very good analysis of the difference between preaching/teaching or catechesis, and proclaiming the Gospel or evangelization. The document states that everything in a Catholic school should relate to the Gospel and be imbued with the spirit of the Gospel. That includes the school atmosphere, life, work, study, homework, examinations, extra-curricular activities, student-teacher relations, peer relationships, and so on. In the words of the document, :Proclaiming the Gospel aims at an internal commitment and renewal of the person.; Therefore, evangelization means changing one's life.

The document continues by pointing out that the religious studies programme in a Catholic school does not mean that one must teach all of the church's doctrine because :religious studies is quite different from catechesis.; (#66-70). 95% of those being taught in the Religious Studies programme (in Hong Kong) are non-Catholic students, and it is not the main purpose that they become Catholics. For Catholic students, or for those who really want it, full catechesis is needed. From this point of view, the content for proclaiming the gospel is much broader than preaching/teaching. Proclaiming the gospel is the first and also the last step of preaching.

The purpose of proclaiming the gospel, i.e. evangelization, is so that everything will be permeated with the spirit of Christ, so that all that is part of humanity and human life will be in accordance with the will of God. We first must extend the meaning and depth of what life is and should be, so that people can have life in its fullness; if it is God・s will, they may become Christian one day. But the purpose of becoming Christian, then, is to continue this fullness of life!

Obviously, when we preach we can use formal religious language, because we are preaching to those preparing to be Christians. But when we .proclaim・ or .evangelize・, we must use language non-believers can understand and with which they can identify, that responds to the needs of their lives and at the same time raises the caliber of their lives. That is what Confucius meant by :my studies lie low and my penetration rises high; (1) Vreaching the climax of life.

Once a newly-ordained priest rather emotionally said, .What we have learned are not the questions people ever ask; what people now ask, we are not able to answer!・ When we proclaim the gospel we not only teach what we wish to say, but what people ask and what they can understand, and what is of use to them.

There is a story in Mou Tze's Book of Reason and Perplexity, which is worthwhile for all preachers to heed. :Gong Ming Yi played a piece of beautiful music on the horn for the ox. The ox paid no attention to him and just kept eating. Not that the ox couldn't hear, it was just that the music did not appeal to it. Gong Ming Yi changed the tune and made it sound like mosquitoes and insects and the moos of young calves. The ox immediately wagged its tail and twirled its ears, and listened attentively to the sound.;(2)

This story is known as :Playing Music to the Ox.; When you play music for an animal, no matter how beautifully you play, it does not know how to appreciate it. On the other hand, if you can produce the moos of the ox or the calls of its young, you immediately will attract its attention. When proclaiming the gospel, the starting point also must be what people can understand and what they can accept at that moment!

There are not that many people who want to be or really are Christian; in the last 2000 years Christians have never been a majority of the world's population. Perhaps it is not God's will, that all humanity should be Christian. But we are certain that God wants the whole world to be filled with the spirit of Christ, full of the vitality of the gospel, and no matter what each one's belief, together to create a world of justice, compassion and peace.

This is evangelization which we must carry on even to the .four corners・ of the earth.

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