Suppose we were asked how to bring the gospel to the world today. What might we suggest? How about buying Twitter? Or some big newspaper or media chain, as a number of wealthy figures in our society have done ?
If we look at our readings from the Acts of the Apostles for the next couple of days, we might see another way evangelization takes place. “There broke out a severe persecution of the Church in Jerusalem, and all were scattered throughout the countryside of Judea and Samaria…Now those who had been scattered went about preaching the word.” (Acts 8)
The first great persecution of the church after the death of Stephen when Greek-speaking Jews were banished from Jerusalem is not a unique event; it indicates how the gospel will always be spread– through persecution, through immigrants who must leave their own lands because of religious or economic pressures and are scattered throughout the world.
“Now those who had been scattered went about preaching the word.” Luke mentions Philip the Deacon in his account, but he doesn’t omit those others who were scattered and preached the word. Immigrants, people who have suffered from persecution or economic dislocation are always important preachers of the word. They have experienced the Passion of Jesus.
It’s one reason the church has always cared for immigrants, victims of war and persecution.
You may be interested in this story I narrated recently on YouTube. Later on today, I’m posting the story of the ancient church in Rome dedicated to St. Stephen, which was built to encourage Christians at the time threatened with dislocation and war.