A Cycle – 12th Sunday of Ordinary Time 20
Mt. 10: 23-33
“If you acknowledge me before others, I will acknowledge you before my Father in heaven. Whoever denies me before others, I will deny before my Father in heaven.” These are sobering words spoken to us today by Jesus. They are not just part of a bible story about Jesus speaking to his disciples. Those words are not part of some ideal spirituality we can ignore for they are in fact the gold standard of a disciple. These words are directed at anyone of us who calls themselves a believer. Everything we do each day is to be directed at acknowledging Jesus as our Savior. Every interaction, every word, every facial expression, and our body language is advertising to the world what we profess and believe.
Jeremiah in our first reading is lamenting the fact that those who he called friends are watching for his missteps. We do not realize the impact we have on others because of our action are constantly giving out a message that advertises a difference between how we act and what we believe.
How many times have you heard someone say Christians are hypocrites because their actions are in opposition to their faith? We have a dilemma because we are sinners who daily fall to the temptation to please self before God. We want to belong, so we go along. We want to be liked so we do not speak out when we should. Our own weaknesses cause us to fail each day to live the faith we have embraced and show those we interact with how the love of God conquers all things, even our weaknesses.
How can we always do the correct things to acknowledge Jesus? Did you ever think of inviting Jesus to probe your heart as Jeremiah did? The truth is it easier for us to deceive ourselves by performing outward acts expected of Christians. Those righteous acts blind us from seeing how we have compartmentalized our faith life from our life in the world. When out of our “Christian environment” we conform to the world standard and we lose our effectiveness to change hearts and minds to embrace what God offers.
We need to invite Jesus to probe our hearts and reveal to us those places where we can be better witnesses. For most of us that does not mean we need to go serve the poor in some poverty-stricken area or country. For there are people in our own family circle and social circle who know we faithfully show up on Sunday. They know how we will attend services designed to inspire us, or programs to enrich our faith and at the same time we are timid in our attempts to acknowledge how deeply we believe.
There are people in our own circle of family, friends, work companions, exercise buddies or in your golf league who need you to witness to them. We could learn the lesson of FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) by outward signs of our faith. Giving witness by living the Christian values we profess and believe. The building block of effective witnessing used by FOCUS is before we do anything, we must befriend those they are seeking to share the gospel with. They teach active witnessing is not accomplished by standing on the street corner telling people to repent.
No, it is achieved by building trust by breaking down barriers we all tend to build in our relationships. Once we befriend someone we are able to share how our relationship with Jesus helped us overcome our inability to control our flare ups of anger, or the use of profanity, or the inappropriate materials we read or seek to watch.
Those who see us daily or interact with us frequently either know we acknowledge Christ by what they see us do or hear us say or they do not. How we handle anger, frustration, temptation, hurt, doubt, fear, and unfairness is our best and strongest witness. The fact is we fail to realize how our reaction to those things either gives others hope that they can change, or it crushes their hopes. If we fail to allow our faith to impact our daily life, we send out a message that faith does not have the ability to change our human weaknesses. Once we send out that message the people who interact with us realize they will never rid themselves of the sins they are committing.
The good news is God desires to change us and mold us into disciples. God promised to send the Spirit to probe our hearts. We can effectively hide the ugliness of our weaknesses from the world and deceive ourselves in the process. We effectively cover ourselves with cloaks of ‘righteousness earned through acts of “mercy or piety.” The Pharisees did exactly that and we have become imitators of them instead of the woman caught in adultery. She could not cover her sin, neither could King David cover his sin. We fail to take the first step in discipleship and that is to acknowledge we are sinners in daily need of grace.
The truth is we will never know the feeling of being forgiven until we allow our hearts to be probed. We will never be able to acknowledge Jesus before others until we allow the Spirit to show us our sin. But if we allow our hearts to be probed, we will know God’s love for us is greater than our sin. Then we will begin to live a life dependent on daily prayer, receiving the sacraments and by reading scripture. Then we will discover a boldness that has us acknowledge Jesus before all.