“Never did I shrink from telling you what was for your own good…. I take the blame for no one’s conscience, for I have never shrunk from announcing to you God’s design in its entirety” – the words of St. Paul to his spiritual children in Ephesus as he neared the end of his life (from today’s first reading, Acts 20:17-27).
“I have made your name known to those you gave me out of the world…. I entrusted to them the message you entrusted to me.” – the words of Jesus to the Father as he neared the end of his life (from the Gospel reading, John 17:1-11a).
Will you be able to say the same thing at the end of your life?
We live in a very “polite” society. We hide the truth for the sake of being “nice”. In many cultures, being “politically correct” means “if you don’t agree with the trends in our society, you’re bad.” But Jesus gave us the Holy Spirit so that we could be his witnesses to the ends of the earth, sometimes by words, always by the holy way that we live – boldly, visibly, confidently – even if it gets us into trouble. Jesus was not always polite, and he was certainly not politically correct.
Do we really want him to be our Lord and teacher? Do we really want to follow him and imitate him?
We preach by our lives. We stand up as different from the world, but we don’t force others to agree with us; we convert by our compassion. We teach the truth by using words whenever there’s an openness to learn. If a person is ready to be taught, we must be ready to explain our faith and not shrink back.
Usually, we don’t know when someone’s ready, so we must rely upon the Holy Spirit to inspire us. Never are we to sit back and hope that someone else will do the evangelizing, or else at the time of our death we will be held accountable, to some extent, for the poorly formed consciences of others and for the souls who never reach heaven.
How many times have we noticed coworkers struggling with a problem and we’ve not asked if we could pray for them? When have we heard a family member complain about a Church teaching and we’ve let our silence – or perhaps even a smile or nod – indicate that we agree, rather than dare to offer a different perspective (in a compassionate way, of course)?
Every day, we encounter opportunities to evangelize. Let’s grow in our ability to recognize the Holy Spirit’s inspirations and courage to do what can be done.