The word "preach" isn't a very popular one. Most people, I think it's safe to say, don't like the idea of being preached to. It has the connotation of being told what to do by someone who thinks they know better than you.
Of course, preaching is a major component of the Christian faith, in the sense that homilies or sermons are often a significant part of worship services. In fact, in many Christian denominations the pastor is known as "the preacher," suggesting that preaching is the most important part of the job.
In today's Gospel reading, Jesus visits the home of Simon and Andrew, and immediately heals Simon's mother-in-law, who is ill with a fever. Later that day, we're told, the whole town gathered at the door of Simon's home, bringing the sick and afflicted to be healed: "He cured many."
The next day, Jesus rises early and tells Simon and Andrew, "Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this reason have I come."
It strikes me as odd that Jesus talks about continuing to "preach" in other villages, when as far as I can tell he hasn't been doing very much talking. I mean, there is no mention of a message, and certainly not any kind of confrontational language. He heals the sick.
We would do well to consider just how we are going about trying to create change. Are we trying to tell people how to live, or are we showing them how to live better?
This strikes me as a refreshing idea of what it means to "preach." Maybe it's not supposed to be a matter of telling other people how to live their lives. Maybe it is supposed to be a matter of empowering people to live richer, healthier lives.
I often wonder if people who don't know me well would be able to guess that I have any kind of faith in my life. Would they look at how I live, and how I treat them, and think, "He probably believes in God"? Or do they see me as just another person trying to work hard, provide for his family, and enjoy life?
St. Francis of Assisi said to his followers, "Preach the Gospel at all times, and when necessary, use words." This thought seems to echo today's Gospel reading. Jesus' preaches through his actions --- his love, compassion and mercy. He shows people God's love through his behavior rather than trying to convince them of God's love through words.
This is a challenging notion for all of us who wish to share God's love in this world, and bring healing to our families and communities. We would do well to consider just how we are going about trying to create change. Are we trying to tell people how to live, or are we showing them how to live better? I'm not sure I do either very well.
It's really quite a staggering thought to consider that whatever "preaching" we do, we are to do so by our lives and not by our words. It makes sense though, given the example we have in Jesus. He did not force God's love on anyone, but demonstrated it time and again with his healing touch and, yes, his healing words.
Bill Peatman writes from Napa. He may be reached at [email protected].