Five hundred years ago, a Dominican priest by the name of Antonio de Montesinos, in an island somewhere in what is now known as the Dominican Republic, delivered a homily that sparked the discussion on human rights and set the stage for the development of modern international law.
Fr. Montesino’s plight was not easy. When he condemned the horrible mistreatment of the natives by his fellow Spaniards, he earned the ire of the Spanish authorities. At that time, Europe thought that they were the only human occupants on earth. To them, those strange creatures who spoke strange languages, wore strange clothes, and acted with strange behaviours, were nothing but intelligent animals.
The gospel today describes to us the tremendous power of evangelization, and how it can transform the world and improve social conditions. The gospel also provides us guidelines on how to be effective in that mission.
The first is the principle of solidarity. Two by two, Jesus sent his disciples. The Spanish authorities distorted the stories to destroy the reputation of the Dominican friar. His cause could have easily died in vain. Undaunted, his fellow Dominicans in that island, including his superior, rallied behind Fr. Montesinos. There is power in solidarity.
The second is faith. The gospel assures us: Jesus has given us the authority over unclean spirits. Unclean spirits are not only those that drive school children to mass hysteria. Fr. Montesinos and his fellow Dominicans saw the atrocities committed by fellow Spaniards against the natives. They saw the evil in the society. Unclean spirits are all over the place. They are at the barangay halls, at the city halls, at the provincial halls, at the halls of justice, yes, - even at parish halls. God has given us the power to identify them and the authority to dispel them.
The third is freedom from bondage. Jesus tells us not to bring even a spare tunic. Jesus is not actually telling us not to bring our clothes and shoes. What he wants is for us to leave behind our egos. Egos are unnecessary burdens that breed selfishness, greed and apathy. If Fr. Montesinos was not detached from his ego and his comfortable lifestyle, he could have never delivered such a homily.
Solidarity, faith, and freedom from bondage are components of effective evangelization. They provide us the power, strength and fortitude to bring the Catholic faith to the streets without fear or favor.