There were two neighbors living next to each other. They each had fenced in back yards. One of them liked to buy live animals that he would later butcher nd BBQ. The only problem is that he would put it in his neighbor’s back year. She was a Sister with a heavy East Texas accent. She’d work all day and come home to find a turkey or a goat in her back yard. She was not happy. One day she scolded him. He would get all pious and mumble some words, like “Jesus loved the animals.” Finally she said, “Dis ain’t got nuttin’ to do with Jesus. Dis is between you and me!”
I mention this because we have a tendency to think that some things have nothing to do with religion or Jesus. There is an attitude that some things are religious and others are just outside the realm of religion or faith or Jesus.
Recently Pope Francis made the comment—often misinterpreted—that we shouldn’t proselytize. We should evangelize.” It was misinterpreted as meaning “Don’t invite people from other religions to become Catholic.” That’s not what he meant. What he meant was, “Don’t just invite them to believe a few things, keep a few commandments and then call themselves Catholic.” And then you’re done.
Evangelization has two dimensions. Jesus refers to the first one in the Gospel. Our faith is not simply about keeping some rules, especially if we look for loopholes. It is about becoming his disciple and modelling our lives on his life and teachings. We can use different words:
- Being a disciple,
- Having an encounter with Christ,
- having a relationship with Jesus,
- Jesus is my personal lord and savior,
- God is my co-pilot,
- I am in love with Jesus Christ.
All of these try to express that our Faith goes to our very core. Personal conversion and faith and trust in Christ is at the center. Christ is more than some one we know about. Christ is some one whom we know and who is at the center of our lives.
And there is a second dimension. It doesn’t remain only internal and personal. Our faith is not just a Sunday event, it is a 24/7 event. It changes the way we see and act in every dimension of our lives. It changes our perspective on the world. It challenges us to see the world through the eyes of faith;
That is why Gaudium et Spes from Vatican II begins: The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ. Christ’ disciples see and act in the world differently than others. We see the world, each other, and others through the eyes of Christ.
Our baptismal call, our being disciples of the Lord, our being Catholic calls us to first develop a deep love with Christ which transforms us. It changes our vision. It makes us see everything in the light of the Gospel.
We don’t see our Faith as only being how we feel about God, or something that we do as a private, personal hobby with others who share those interests. But now we see our faith and relationship with Christ. St. John Paul II authored part of Gaudium et Spes that speaks of how the Church relates to the world: But out of this religious mission itself come a function, a light and an energy which can serve to structure and consolidate the human community according to the divine law. As a matter of fact, when circumstances of time and place produce the need, (the Church) can and indeed should initiate activities on behalf of all people, especially those designed for the needy. Gaudium et Spes, No. 42
Our relationship with Christ, our baptismal call to holiness sends us into the world. We are on a mission from God. God places our baptismal call, our sharing at the Eucharistic table before us: He wants to be our God and for us to be His people. As the book of Sirach says this morning:
Before man are life and death, good and evil,
whichever he chooses shall be given him.
In a few moments, we will again profess our Faith in God. We will offer Him gifts from the bounty He has blessed us with. We will recognize that though they are made by human hands and the fruit of the earth, they come to us through His goodness. We will renew our commitment, that He is our God and we are His people by renewing and celebrating the new and eternal covenant once again. Then we shall be sent into the world as His disciples.