Christ wants to make us fishers of men, but the problem with evangelization is that plenty of people think it’s bad…or at least optional.
I heard this story once about this visiting priest from one of the poorer parts of Africa and he was on a float trip on the Meramec or one of the other rivers in Missouri. Anyway they had along with them some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. So at the end of the trip there was one PBJ that had probably been sat on at one point and was kind of mangled in its little ziplock bag, and one of the floaters took that bag and twisted it up and crammed it into a pringles container and threw it away. It was trash. This African priest went over to the trash pulled out the pringles can, pulled out the ziplock bag and quickly ate the sandwich. When somebody looked at him a little shocked, he explained quite simply: “Where I come from this would be a nice meal.”
We just don’t always know the value of things. Not knowing something is called ignorance and often times it is innocent enough. Actually, we all start off ignorant of everything that we know today. We had to learn bit by bit, sometimes at great cost to amass our knowledge. What is the greatest ignorance? The greatest ignorance we are born into is an ignorance of who God is and how much He loves us. In other words, we are tempted to think of ourselves or to think of others as unimportant. The significance of human life at some point – whether it’s our life or that of somebody else seems disposable. As soon as it is inconvenient you could just roll it up into a ball like that PBJ sandwich and toss it…or at the very least ignore it. Those people – not worth our time considering. The truth is far different. The truth is in our Psalm. “All the kings of the earth shall give thanks to you, O Lord.” We are these kings and queens. What do you call the son of a king? King. And we are all living Christianity to the extent that we have the life of the Great King’s Son in us. The Psalmist wants to awaken all of the lines of this royal family and get them to praise God. This is important knowledge that all people should know and that we should want them to know.
Ignorance by itself is not actually bad. The danger of course is that we just get distracted and turn our attention to finding much less life-giving answers. Strangely, the first step to spreading the good Word is to acknowledge that we could use more of the good Word ourselves and to go looking.
So, if the ignorance of Good News is the first step…knowledge of the Good News is the second step. We are called to be a part of God’s royal family. But that would be a really short Bible. Isn’t there more Good News? God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. And if we go one verse further: God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.” (Jn 3:16-17) This is the most beautiful message that anyone has ever and could ever proclaim. That Jesus Christ has come to save us and more than that – the whole believing world from the fires of condemnation and to bring us to eternal life. We go from the worst situation imaginable to the best in two sentences.
In that Gospel for Jesus to be our Savior, than a lot of will find ourselves unemployed because we lose that job. If He is our savior, then we are not our Savior. What’s more – we are sinners in need of a savior. Jesus Christ is not the famous Maytag repairmen. Do you remember those commercials of the kind old Maytag repairmen who you never have to call because your appliances will magically never break down? We are broken from the start. So, to spread the Gospel we have to admit our ignorance to receive knowledge of God and of our own value and we have to admit we are sinners to receive a Savior.
Consider our first reading: Before God, Isaiah realizes that he himself has lips that are unclean. He’s used them in an ungodly way. And he’s from an entire people that has gone astray in their speech and how they speak of God. Could we say the same thing? Peter in the Gospel: Depart from me Jesus, I am a sinful man. It’s not just my lips – it’s my life. You can do better than start here. I’m not worthy. St. Paul: my spiritual birth was abnormal – the least of the apostles….not fit to be called an apostle….I persecuted the Church….only by His grace I am what I am. That’s the key. We should know that we were made good. We should know of sin. We should know of His grace.
We pass this on most effectively by then living in God’s grace. Isaiah is purged of sin and he shouts out, “Send me.” I will take the message. Peter is not rejected by Jesus, but called to witness His glory and to have his whole life transformed and to share the power of Christ as the first pope. Paul gets inside the very Spirit of God and shares with us how we are all connected. Connected to this One Jesus Christ who sends us out to awaken others to grace.