When the Risen Lord told the Apostles to go out and preach the Gospel to the whole world, he didn’t specify exactly what that ‘Gospel’ was. Neither did he tell them how they were to proclaim it. Now, some of the Apostles may have been a bit dim, but they weren’t stupid; they knew what the essential Gospel message was; they had heard Jesus announce it for three whole years. Maybe Our Lord didn’t give them a specific formula because he knew that the Gospel is far bigger than any one set of words. Because the Gospel touches every person in a different way, one concise paragraph will never suffice to capture all of its grandeur.
So where does that leave us? How do we proclaim the Gospel? Well, we may start by following Mary Magdalene’s example. Tradition calls her the Apostle to the Apostles and the first evangelist because she was the first person to announce Our Lord’s resurrection. But notice how she did it: she simply spoke about what she had experienced: “I have seen the Lord” (John 20:18). These five short words were joyful enough and powerful enough to catch the Apostles’ attention and cut through their sadness.
I would have liked to say that, like Mary Magdalene, we don’t need special credentials or training. But we live in the 21st century and the Church’s ministers need to be well educated to be credible. But, for the ordinary person on the street, just telling someone how much of a relief it is when you have been to Confession, or how you feel God’s presence when you are at Mass, can make such a difference in other people’s lives. Like Mary Magdalene we tell them: this is what I heard, this is what it felt like, this is what God did for me. The simple witness of our lives makes more of a difference than we will ever imagine.