July 8, 2007


The Kingdom of God is at hand for you. – Luke 10: 12

Today’s Gospel highlights something we modern Catholics are reticent to talk about: Evangelism. Why is this? One possible reason is simple inertia also known as laziness. Let others do it. Besides, we don’t want to impose our faith on others. Our mistaken ideas about mission keep us from doing the work that rightfully belongs to all the baptized in Christ. But there are other, more serious reasons.

Harriet Tubman, the runaway slave who escaped to freedom, turned right around & went back time & again to guide other runaway slaves to freedom. She once said, “I freed thousands of slaves. I could have freed thousands more, if they had known they were slaves.” Too many Catholics don’t know they are slaves. A New York Times survey taken a few years ago showed that the views of Catholics, like most mainline Protestants, were indistinguishable from any other American on issues such as the death penalty, euthanasia, suicide, divorce, premarital sex – you name it. If there is no measurable difference from any other American on such critical issues, then we are slaves to the culture, accepting & living by its values.

When we were largely a church of immigrants, we stood out like a sore thumb because of language & culture differences. But we were feared & resented because many thought we were beholden to a foreign power: the Pope. Actually, they were right, but not for the reason given. The foreign power to which we are beholden is none other than Jesus Christ Himself. Too many Protestant denominations have been co-opted by the culture. Mormonism, for example, has raised Americanism to the level of a civic religion.

For all the good things about our political system, we are still saved only by the 2nd Person of the Trinity, not the Bill of Rights or the Constitution. Its time we got over our timidity about being different.

Finally, even when we do recognize our slavery to the culture, we hedge & fudge & change the script to suit ourselves. Here is a true story about a high school play, a comedy. Things went well until the 2nd act, when an actor forgot his lines. In desperation, he made something up, & it happened to be funny, so everyone laughed. But then that actor decided he was good enough to make up more lines, which became progressively less funny. The other actors didn’t know how to respond since it wasn’t in the script. The play disintegrated into nervous silence. Off stage, the director who had given everything to make the play a success, was in tears.

We too have been given our parts to play in the drama of God’s redemption. Even now the Tempter whispers to us, “Make up your own lines.” But everything is at stake, & the One who has given everything for our salvation is watching.

The beginning of evangelization lies in recognizing our own slavery & need for deliverance. It means living fully the script handed to us by Jesus, not changing it to suit our own vanities or fears. The time for evangelization is as urgent now as it was then. For the reign of God is at hand. AMEN!