Friday, December 5, 2014

Word for the Day: Spread

There is no more convincing proof of the truth of the Christian message than the spread of the Word like wildfire across the Mediterranean basin in the first centuries AD. It’s undeniable that, as Stephen King repeats ad nauseam in his latest book, “Something happened.”

“But they went out and spread word of him through all that land.”

Something unique in human history happened during and immediately after the life of Jesus of Nazareth. Otherwise, why would news of Him have spread as it did, like a pandemic of divine love?

The news spread without violence, except, of course, to the news-bearers. An excess of martyrdom overtook the Christian community during the first three centuries after Christ. This can’t be said of every monotheistic religion, but it can be said of Christianity:

During the era of the Word’s first spread, the swords were all pointed inwards.*

I thought of this spread again this morning as I read the Gospel passage in which Jesus warns two blind men given sight to “See that no one knows about this.” Good luck, JC. Matthew tells us what happened next: “[The men] went out and spread word of him through all that land.”

While reading my Scripture passages before dawn, I was thinking distractedly and worrying about the spread of my own word. I have begun posting excerpts from my forthcoming book, The Long Walk Home: Memoir and Fugue. In the days to come you should continue to see the tabs representing these excerpts spreading across the top of this page like the early Christian communities across a map: Ephesians, Corinthians, Romans.

My morning worry was accentuated by a Facebook message from an old schoolmate, who wrote me sometime in the middle of the night, “I love reading about your spiritual journey.” That message was gratifying, especially since the classmate in question is a doctor to the poor who performs his remarkable ministry in one of our inner cities.

But the message also provoked worry. You just never know who’s going to hear the word once you put it out there.

The good news is, if the word is good, it will spread. If not, it will wither and die. And so like the message brought by St. Paul (above) and others of his time, my own puny seeds will either take root and bring life, or they will dry up and be forgotten.

Their proof will be in the spread.

From Matthew 9: “And their eyes were opened. Jesus warned them sternly, ‘See that no one knows about this.’ But they went out and spread word of him through all that land.”
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NOTE: * I do not ignore or condone Christianity’s own later periods of violence. I am writing about the first three centuries AD here.

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