Proclaiming Christ to the world despite our failings
A reflection for the Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C
by Eric Myatt
When Pope Saint John Paul II came to Canada during World Youth Day 2002, he sparked a new ardour for the young and not-so-young alike to “be the salt of the earth [and] the light of the world” (Matthew 5:13-14). He even inspired the founding of Salt + Light Media and continues to inspire its mission “to proclaim Jesus Christ and the joy of the Gospel in Canada and globally”.
However poignant that theme was during his Canadian visit, John Paul the Great didn’t limit his call for a missionary Church to that event alone. No — as a matter of fact, it was thematic to his entire pontificate.
In his encyclical Redemptoris Missio
he said, “I sense that the moment has come to commit all of the Church's energies to a new evangelization and to the mission ad gentes
. No believer in Christ, no institution of the Church can avoid this supreme duty: to proclaim Christ to all peoples.”
All of the Church’s energies
No believer in the Lord Jesus can avoid proclaiming him?
At first glance, this seems a bit extreme, doesn’t it? The Holy Father knows how difficult evangelization can be. He also knows the Church’s shortcomings. But has he accounted for my
failings and weaknesses? Surely he knows that one of the biggest issues with the Church is that it's made up of unworthy people. And to make things worse — I’m one of them!
In this Sunday’s readings, the theme of unworthiness comes through loud and clear.
Isaiah writes, “Then I said ‘Woe to me, I am doomed! For I am a man of unclean lips, living among a people of unclean lips’” (6:5).
Then St. Paul chimes in with his unworthiness: “For I am the least of the apostles, not fit to be called an apostle” (1 Corinthians 15:9).
St. Peter rounds out this sentiment with his classic line “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man” (Luke 5:8).
It’s easy to feel unworthy, especially considering the Church’s call for each of us to invite others into relationship with Jesus. Our sins, weaknesses, and failures seem like insurmountable obstacles. How can I fulfill this urgent and personal call to proclaim Christ to my family, friends, coworkers, and neighbours? Don't we have to have our act together first before we can be missionary? How am I supposed to respond to this call?
This Sunday’s readings give us the answer: authentic humility and audacious confidence in Jesus.
Authentic humility means recognizing our sins and repenting. It also means realizing our weaknesses but not letting them stand in the way of what the Lord Jesus wants to do through us.
We also need to have audacious confidence in Jesus. He’s the one calling us, and he knows what we've done and what we’ve failed to do. It seems to me that he’s actually attracted
to weakness, and he uses those who are confident in him, despite their weaknesses.
This Sunday’s readings show us how humility and confidence help us take up the call to share Jesus with others.
Isaiah is forgiven, and immediately goes on mission: “’See, now that this has touched your lips, your wickedness is removed, your sin purged.’ Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?’ ‘Here I am,’ I said; ‘send me!’” (6:8).
St. Paul had a violent past, but still he goes on mission: “...I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me has not been ineffective... so we preach and so you believed” (1 Corinthians 15:10).
Jesus speaks deeply into the immediate fear, uncertainty, and unworthiness of Peter: “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people” (Luke 5:10).
Jesus calls each of us to mission. Will we humbly and confidently respond to his call?
We are only a few weeks away from the season of Lent. Lent is typically a time dedicated to prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Perhaps we can also add a fourth category: mission.
How might I proclaim Jesus this Lent, in spite of my unworthiness? Does my parish use an evangelization tool like Alpha
? If not, could I host my own group?
Who might Jesus be asking me to pray for and invite to join me? Is there someone I know who has drifted away from Jesus and his Church, or may have never been to church before?
Despite our unworthiness, Jesus is calling each of us to mission. With authentic humility and audacious confidence, let us respond to his call as Isaiah, Paul, and Peter did. “Here I am, Lord, send me.”
The readings for the Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C, are
Isaiah: 6:1-2a, 3-8
1 Corinthians 15:1-11
Eric Myatt is the Canadian Director with Divine Renovation, a global ministry that inspires, connects, and equips priests and lay leaders to take their parish from maintenance to mission.