“Good luck with your evangelism,” my wife said.
We were discussing my plan to become a Catholic Street Evangelist. My first prayer station event is September 16 under the tutelage of a seasoned team leader.
“Why do you say it like that?” I asked her.
“This is kind of a bad time to be out trying to bring people into the Catholic church, isn’t it?”
She had a point.
The church has been in sort of a losing streak of late.
- Pope Francis alienated everyone concerned about sexual abuse of young men by priests and bishops when he declared Chilean accusers of being slanderers in a conspiracy of “calumny” against a Chilean bishop for whom Francis personally vouched and declared innocent. Turns out, the pope was dead wrong and the accusers were right, leading every bishop in Chile to resign.
- Cardinal McCarrick of Washington DC was forced to resign as a cardinal because of a lifetime of predatory homosexual assaults on young men including the children of lay friends and dozens or hundreds of seminarians. (Read the sordid story here.) Moreover, almost every cardinal and bishop in the United States knew of McCarrick’s crimes and did nothing to stop them. That list of enablers includes some of the most popular conservative bishops and cardinals.
- A Pennsylvania Grand Jury investigation released in August 2018 documents thousands of cases of sexual harassment, rape, and molestation by over 300 priests and bishops in across six dioceses in Pennsylvania spanning 70 years. Worse, all of these crimes were systematically covered up by the church hierarchy.
- A letter by the former Vatican ambassador to the United States accuses Pope Francis and numerous US cardinals and bishops of continuing to cover up Timothy Cardinal McCarrick’s horrible crimes even after the church had determined that McCarrick was indeed a serial predator and imposed sanctions on the disgusting cleric. Pope Francis and his inner circle refuse to comment on the allegations, leading most reasonable people to conclude the accusations are true to some degree.
- For 30 years, the church has refused to admit to the many crimes committed by priests and bishops against children and young adults and continues to stonewall investigators and slander victims.
“This is is the best time,” I told my wife. The best time to go fishing for men, so to speak. Besides, I thought, you came into the church at the worst of times.
I know. It sounds crazy. Isn’t it like having a baby to save a horrible marriage? Like bringing an innocent life into a completely dysfunctional family full of sexual predator uncles and crack addicts?
You would think. But if you think that, you probably haven’t heard Christ’s words about His church.
[Jesus] said to them, “But who do you say I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter [meaning “rock”], and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against.” (Matthew 16:15-18)
Look at what Christ promised (and Christ always keeps his promises.)
- He promised to build a church, His Church.
- He promised to build it on the rock of Peter, a leader.
- He promised that the gates (jaws) of Hades (hell) shall not prevail against it.
In other words, neither Cardinal McCarrick nor any of the evil-doing priests and bishops can break Christ’s holy Church. Therefore, there is no bad time to bring souls to Jesus through His Church.
But Jesus wasn’t finished. He made more promises to those early bishops through Peter, the first pope:
“I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:19)
Here, Jesus tells Peter, who would later deny Him three times, that Peter and the 12 Apostles would have incredible power. They would speak for Him on earth, and He would honor their promises. What they said on earth would be true in heaven.
Remember that Jesus is God. And God gave mere men the power to speak for God. To bind and loose, to forgive sins or retain them.
Jesus said to them [the 11 remaining], “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” (John 20:21-23)
It’s possible that God could forgive us our sins without the aid of a priest, but I can find nowhere that Jesus guarantees this. He does guarantee that His priests and bishops have the authority to forgive anyone their sins.
Now, confident that Christ built a church on earth and appointed a small group of men to represent Him by leading and growing that church, we now know that those men and their successors have the authority to forgive us our sins. Of course, He also empowered them to feed His sheep His body and blood, to baptize people in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. And He charged them to spread news of salvation to every nation in the world.
Then, the leaders of His church charged every baptized person to help them spread that Word. It is a duty expressed as the seventh precept of the Church:
7. To join in the missionary spirit and apostolate of the Church.
Therefore, there is no better time for me to put away the things of childhood (1 Corinthians 13:11) and fulfill my duty to let Christ work through me for the salvation of souls.
Think about this. At a time of extreme scandal and ill repute, dragging outsiders into this religion, this Church with so much dysfunction is either a sign of sheer madness or of divine inspiration. Either I’m crazy or God is working through me.
And I’m not alone.
- Elijah probably seemed like a madman to Ahab, but Elijah turned out to be the boldest of prophets. He was assumed into heaven and appeared on Mount Tabor with Moses in his sanctified body at the Transfiguration, when Jesus revealed His sanctified body to Peter, James, and John.
- Peter and the Apostles probably seemed like madmen when, after the Pentecost in or about 33 A.D., their leader having been tortured and executed, continued to preach His message to the people of Jerusalem and beyond. They were frequently arrested under the penalty of death, but an angel kept letting them out. Those who listened to their preaching were arrested and harassed by Saul of Tarsus and a band of thugs. Yet they preached on like madmen. Or inspired men.
- Saul of Tarsus certainly seemed to have lost his mind. Having won great favor and privilege from the Caiaphas and the Jewish leaders by harassing and persecuting Peter and the Apostles and their followers, Saul suddenly became one of them. He changed names and teams, going from the apparent winning team to the losing team.
But something funny happened on the way to the apocalypse. The Sanhedrin and the Roman Empire are gone now. Two thousand years later, the Word those madmen preached on the streets of Jerusalem in the first century has spread to every continent and nation.
In the course of those two thousand years, many terrible men have occupied the Seat of Peter. Yet, Christ’s Church survived and flourished. The jaws of hell have not prevailed against His Church.
It pains me to say this, but the United States of America will not last forever. They might not be here in a year. While we may be a nation founded in honor of God’s plan, our nation is not necessary to God’s plan. Nations come and go. His Church endures until the end.
But why now? Why pull people into this Church now? Why not wait until these scandals are resolved, as they surely will be if Christ keeps His promises?
It’s easy to jump on the bandwagon when things are going well. If the Church were in the news for good things instead of bad, new evangelists might be sincere. Or they might be mere band-wagoners. Evangelizing in good times is easy.
My confirmation name is Peter. Peter went into the streets when doing so meant certain death. Like me, Peter was weak and flawed. He denied Christ three times. And the risen Christ, tradition tells us, stopped Peter’s flight from persecution on the Appian Way as foreshadowed in John 13:36
Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus answered, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now; but you shall follow me afterward.”
I feel like I am being sent, not of my own volition. I am being pulled to evangelize, to put down the things I’ve played with my whole life, to put on the armor of Christ, and to take on the challenge of giving myself to Christ to use as He wishes.
And I am scared. I won’t pretend that I am ready or able for this mission. And my willing is iffy.
But I was also scared and unready for the first tea party in February 2009. Sometimes, the right thing means acting on inspiration when we feel unready, unwilling, and unqualified. Those apostles were simple, uneducated men who feared greatly. Poor Jesus had to constantly guide them. They could do nothing but sin without Him.
I have fought for freedom and liberty all my life. But true freedom comes only by surrendering everything to Christ Jesus. Liberty evangelism succeeds when the free chain themselves to Jesus. We are all free to choose Him and the salvation He won us, or to walk away from Him and it. I’m going to try to walk with Him now.
When fishing for men, the worst of times are the best of times. As long as we listen to Mary and do whatever He tells us. (John 2:5):
And when he ceased speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.”And when they had done this, they enclosed a great shoal of fish; and as their nets were breaking, they beckoned to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. (Luke 5:4-7)
Please pray for me. And, if you wish, join me. Because happiness loves company.