Friday, July 10, 2009

***The Call to Evangelize - Overcoming Our Fears***

Maybe you have some fears or past failures that have kept you from trying to be a better evangelist. If so, know that you are not alone.. Many of the saints resisted the call to evangelize before they answered the call to evangelize. This isn’t a modern phenomenon either. Jonah didn’t want to go to Nineveh and didn’t want God to be merciful, yet God used him to have thousands repent and convert their lives to the one, true God, even though Jonah remained stubbornly resistant.

The calling of Moses is another story of inadequacies, fears and a desire to stay out of trouble. We all remember the story, but it is a good jumpstart for us all before entering the mission fields. We start in Chapter 3 of Exodus.

Yahweh appears to Moses in the form of a bush on fire, though it was not being consumed (3:2). Moses is very interested in this occurrence and seeks to find out more so he walks toward the bush. God then speaks to him and says, “Moses! Moses!” and Moses answers, “here I am (3:4).” We can already see that God can use extraordinary means to call into his service – as well as the ordinary. We must listen constantly for the voice of God in our lives. We cannot be deaf to the voice of God, no matter the circumstances.

God then tells Moses who he is (Yahweh) and that he has heard the cry of the people and will help them (3: 6-9). At this point Moses is thinks to himself, “Great, at least the Lord will do something about the horrible afflictions my people have been going through,” not knowing he would be the instrument of the Israelites’ salvation. Then God drops the bomb on Moses “Come now! I will send you to Pharaoh to lead my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt” (3: 10). Moses reaction to this revelation about his own calling is telling and how he reacts to it is not unlike how we react to God calling us to evangelize the world in many cases.

Excuse #1 – I am not worthy

“But Moses said to God, ‘Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and lead the Israelites out of Egypt?’” (3: 11) Don’t we ask God this same question? Shouldn’t a priest or someone with a Master of Theology degree do it? Shouldn’t someone more qualified? This kind of question forgets the most important person in the act of evangelization – God. “I will be with you” (3: 12). God is with all of us. He is the power filling in where we are inadequate. He is the one who can make a situation destined to fail into a success. He is the one who can bring good from evil. He is the one who made us evangelists at our Confirmation. Do we have faith enough to believe he can do all this through us?

Excuse #2 – I don’t know enough

“But…when I go to the Israelites and say to them ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ if they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what am I to tell them?” (3: 13). We dwell on what we don’t know more than what we do know as a way to get out of evangelizing and doing the work of Jesus often. We believe we can’t answer a question or know what to say and therefore we remain silent. These are poor excuses. We know the creed we say weekly in Mass and that summation of our faith is enough to get us started. We know we believe in Christ and his merciful love. This is enough to share with anyone. “I am who am….This is what you shall tell the Israelites: I AM sent me to you.” (3: 14).

Excuse #3 – They won’t listen to me

“Suppose they will not believe me, nor listen to my plea? For they may say, ‘The Lord did not appear to you.’” (4:1) This is the excuse commonly used by those who want to evangelize but are scared of others. We think - it won’t do any good, they don’t want to hear what I have to say. But, this fear (we are wasting our time) is a cover for the fear of rejection. We want to be accepted and to have a person or group reject us hurts. We forget acceptance isn’t always part of the plan. We are to speak the truth whether convenient or not, in all places and times and not fear the repercussions. God then gives Moses the power of three different signs to prove the Lord appeared to him (4: 2-9).

Excuse #4 – I am not talented enough

“If you please, Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past, nor recently, nor now that you have spoken to your servant; but I am slow of speech and tongue.” (4: 10) We all know there are others with more talent than ourselves. This does not mean we cannot do wonderful and powerful works for our Lord. He has equipped us through the grace of the Sacraments to have all the power we need to do his work of evangelization. “Go, then! It is I who will assist you in speaking and will teach you what you are to say.” (4:12). The only things God has to work through with any of us is insufficiency.

Excuse #5 – I don’t want to do it

“If you please, Lord, send someone else!” This is a cry of desperation trying to resist the call of the Lord. Sometimes we ignore it and sometimes we fail to act upon it. We become lazy, apathetic or scared to do it. But, these are excuses that must not keep us from the work of God. God will always provide, even if he must do so in unexpected ways. “Have you not your brother, Aaron the Levite? I know that he is an eloquent speaker.” (4: 14)

This episode of Moses’ conversation with the Lord is very indicative of how many humans react to the calling we receive, by God, to a difficult task. The question now becomes, will we fail to act on this calling because of one excuse or another, or we will be able to answer “yes” to our God?