Our responsibility to share Christ’s love

It is my practice to stand at the outside of the church before the start of Sunday Mass. I’m not sure when I started doing so, but I do know why. When we gather at the Table, we do so as children of God, part of the family of faith. The interactions I have with people arriving for Mass helps strengthen a bond and helps myself and others to truly celebrate the Mass, not as strangers, but as a community of faith. It is also why I have everyone take a moment to greet those sitting near them before Mass begins.

About a year or two ago, I was outside as was my routine. A vehicle drove by and a young man yelled out “God is dead!” I think that it was the same person who had offered some theological opinions before as he has driven by the church. I did what I usually did at his greeting, I smiled and waved. 

A couple of things to keep in mind: First, the young man’s action shows us there is a lot of work to be done. As Catholics we understand the faith we profess is meant to be shared, that by our Baptism we are all (regardless of our vocation in life) called upon to proclaim the Gospel to others. Because of this understanding, we ought not react angrily to this young man’s proclamations, even though he may be trying to offend or hurt us in some way. Our response needs to be Christ-like. How did Christ handle His critics: He engaged.

I remember when I first arrived at UMass Dartmouth. I was very excited to be chaplain at a university, looking forward to ministering to the students, faculty and staff. 

If we react angrily or defensively to each criticism or outright verbal attack on us, we aren’t witnessing to the Gospel. In fact, we are being obstacles of the Gospel. We may feel the urge to react, to defend or even attack. Society and those close to us may even tell us we are justified in doing so. However, living as a Christian disciple is different. In our response we have the ability to share Christ’s love and teaching. We can’t do that from a place of anger or defensiveness.

Such a response doesn’t just happen. We can only be Christ-like by spending time with Christ, by intentionally taking time to unite our heart and mind to His. That is why we exist as a parish: to help one another fall deeper in love with Jesus Christ, to mature in that love and to share it with others.

Anchor columnist Father Frederici is pastor of St. George Parish in Westport and diocesan director of Campus Ministry and chaplain at UMass Dartmouth and Bristol Community College.

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