We know how important it is to leave instructions for our family and friends in the event of our passing into eternal life. This is to make sure that our hopes and dreams for what remains is carried out in accordance with our wishes. If you had to choose your last words in life, what would they be?
For the majority of us, our last words would not simply be a “to do” list, but rather a “to be” list. They would focus not on all the things we would like people to do, but instead focus on being more loving, kinder and more encouraging. Similarly, if someone you loved gave you instructions right before they died, would they stay with you for life? For most of us, those words would be engraved on our hearts.
This is the situation that the disciples found themselves in.
Jesus’ Ascension into heaven would mark the last time that the disciples would look upon the face of Jesus until they met him in the next life. Jesus knew that his words would stay with the disciples and bind them to him and his mission for life. In a sense, Jesus leaves us his last will and testament in his last words, “but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
Note that Jesus mentions three specific places for us: Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria. Why these places? Let’s take a look at each of these places, beginning with Jerusalem.
- Jerusalem, as the most holy and sacred place, represents our home or the center of the church’s activities. This is what the Catholic Church refers to as the “Domestic Church.” The term “domestic church” is found as far back as the first century and the Greek word ecclesiola refers to “little church.” This is our home or family, the smallest body of gathered believers in Christ.
The Early Church Fathers understood that the home was fertile ground for discipleship as it is the place where we first learn about God and how to live as a Christian. Questions to reflect upon include: How does your home prepare you to share your faith with others? How do you prepare your children to share their faith?
- Next, Jesus lists Judea. Judea was the neighborhood where Jerusalem was located. So, after beginning at home, Jesus urges the disciples to go out into their wider neighborhoods to spread the good news. We can only share the good news of Christ if we have first encountered it in our home and can take that love into our wider communities to reach others. We must take our faith to the city streets, country roads and lanes of our communities. Where is this place for you? Is it your workplace or perhaps the grocery store or the gym?
- Lastly, Jesus asks us to go to Samaria. Now it must be noted that the Jews avoided Samaria and saw the Samaritans as outcasts who were not to be trusted. Yet in the Scriptures we read that “Jesus had to go through Samaria” (Jn 4:4). Why? While Samaria was the most direct route for Jesus to travel from Galilee to Judea, he chose to go to Samaria to encounter the people there.
We read of one such person who Jesus encountered in the story of the woman at the well (Jn 4:4-42). Samaria exists today for each one of us. It is the place where we least want to go to meet those who we mistrust or avoid. But Jesus asks us to go out from what is most familiar and comfortable to be with those who are marginalized. Where is Samaria for you?
Jesus asks us to go and share the Gospel to the ends of the earth and this begins with each one of us, starting in our own homes and neighborhoods. Pope Francis reminds us that “being a disciple means being constantly ready to bring the love of Jesus to others, and this can happen unexpectedly and in any place: on the street, in a city square, during work, on a journey” (Evangelii Gaudium, # 127). Today are you ready to go to Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria?
Stanz is director of the diocesan Department of New Evangelization. She is the author of “Developing Disciples of Christ” and co-author of “The Catechist’s Backpack.”