"Whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this faithless and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels." (Mark8:38)
During a conversation the other night a group of us considered the limits of individual willingness to publicly profess Christ (in word and deed) in any and every aspect of our lives. The discussion began to focus on one's general ability/freedom to speak openly of Christ when in a group of like-minded individuals (e.g. within the four walls of the Church), and, how people often tend to be more guarded with public declarations/actions of the Lord, when outside of that safety net. I began to share some of the experiences we as Missionaries of Mercy have had because of our willingness (despite our own personal trepidation at times) to "put out into deep water and lower our nets for a catch" (Luke 5:4).
Some seemed genuinely surprised at our openness and as one individual referenced it - "an amazing willingness to open ourselves up to the possibility of rejection like that". Another remarked about the self-consciousness and sense of embarrassment most would probably experience being "out there" with their faith like that. I pointed out that we, like any other human beings are not immune to the discomfort of rejection and each face our own internal struggles that seek to confine and imprison us within our "comfort zones". I continued by saying that each of us also recognizes that nothing we could encounter would ever match the rejection Jesus withstood from those He came to save, those He loved so very much - many of whom wished Him dead, as well as those chosen ones who despite their love and pledges of loyalty, abandoned and even denied Him (“I do not know the man” Matthew 26:74), in His final hours.
I was then reminded of something that one of our Team members (Sandy) had said last week after we had just finished a day of neighborhood engagements and I shared her wisdom with the group. Sandy spoke about the importance of being "willing to get out of our comfort zones" and that much of the formation we are exposed to - be it the different programs in Adult Faith Formation or Retreat Programs such as 33 Days to Morning Glory, 33 Days to Merciful Love, etc., or any faith formation for that matter) are truly all about "getting out of our comfort zones". I then shared my personal belief that if after all the formation that many of our active Catholic brothers and sisters avail themselves to, we are unwilling to "put out into deep water and lower our nets for a catch" (Luke 5:4), then the gifts and graces we receive in response to this formation will, in my humble opinion eventually wither. I went on to say that love, by its very nature must go out from itself - if it is not only to survive, but more importantly, thrive, as true love seeks to spread itself, because it is simply unable to contain itself.
Jesus taught us this in every interaction He had with human beings. It was His unconditional love, that enabled the fully human part of Christ to perform His greatest miracles, extending forgiveness to the woman caught in adultery, forgiving the sinners Matthew and Zacchaeus, bringing hope to the Samaritan woman at the well, and loving unconditionally those who persecuted and crucified Him. Jesus taught us that Forgiveness sets people Free, Hope gives a person Life, and Love makes a person Whole.
As I thought more about what Sandy had said, I remembered being so uplifted that day to hear this individual - whom I admire a great deal, speak with such ease about the need and willingness to do something that is so very uncommon these days, that is to say - going "outside of our comfort zones" and unashamedly journeying with, and for Jesus through the streets of our community. In the course of all of the interactions with those we've met during our engagements, I have been graced by our Lord with a powerful reminder of a very important message - "Whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this faithless and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels." (Mark8:38).
I am so very grateful that God has allowed me to participate on this journey with the Missionaries of Mercy and that He has blessed our Apostolate with such inspirational and courageous individuals who because of their unconditional love - drive us all to "put out into [the] deep water" (Luke 5:4).