God, the Almighty, is full of mysteries that far surpass the imagination. His revelations to man surpass the seas and skies many times over in depth and magnificence. Jesus' coming to earth introduced an unknown sphere of love to mankind... a love that surpasses all hopes and dreams of the immortal human soul. Through His Catholic Church, Jesus has made us a part of His mysteries. He has given us the responsibility to bear witness to the faith, and to be missionaries to those who do not yet know Him. How well do we fulfill the filial responsibility given to us, as heirs to eternity, by the Father? What kind of example do we set for others to see... how do we treat those who are not embraced in the folds of the Church? These are very important questions to ask ourselves, and I am about to explain in depth a few things we should remember as members of a Catholic and Apostolic Church.
We've been given a great privilege to witness to Christ's Church. He allows us, sinful and weak as we are, to uphold His reputation in the Catholic Church. Therefore, our faith must never be weak, nor our beliefs empty. The mysteries of the Church are intense, and if we have not studied them in depth then we are just as in need of instruction as our non-Catholic neighbors. If we do not truly understand our beliefs in the Trinity, Eucharist, intercession of the saints, priestly sacraments, nature of sin and repentance, etc. then we cannot hope to share them with others, or even convince others that we hold these beliefs to be true. We must not insult ourselves with a half-willed surrender to the truth once we have been convinced of it. We must show a saintly sincerity and fortitude in our faith and beg God in prayer often for His strength in our hearts and wisdom in our minds.
Not only are we, who are given the grace of Catholicism, called to dedicate our intellects and wills to its teachings... we are also called to dedicate our actions and daily life to witness the God we profess. None of us are perfect, and God does not expect us to be, but we are called to strive for perfection. The call to holiness and virtue should be apparent in us. Our prayer and attitudes towards others helps us to take care of the spirituality God has given us and grow in our own faith. Our work ethic, purity, and love should reflect that of Our Savior. I am not telling you "to be good." I'm telling you that God has chosen you to be His instrument, and you need to be conscious of the fact that He intends to use you to touch every person you meet in a special way. As the good saint said: "preach the gospel, use words if necessary." The Catholic Church is, however, an apostolic Church. Therefore, we have a responsibility not only to ourselves but to our neighbors. As Catholics, we are called to share Christ's message of peace to people of all races and religions.
First, God calls us to love our neighbor. This is essential to the Holy Doctrines of Christianity, and if we had not imitated Jesus' love of Jew and Gentile alike, the Church would never have grown so great. The beliefs of others are not to be taken lightly! In the book, "The Kingdom and the World," which is a compilation of sermons preached in Westminster Cathedral, the attitude we should have towards agnostics is brilliantly defined: "Those who profess agnosticism are afraid of betrayal of truth and knowledge... this is noble and in keeping with the claim and revelation that Christ will be found to make and to offer... it is these who truly earn our respect." Indeed, I admire those who traverse the terrifying and lonely paths of agnosticism, because to them truth matters more than themselves. Christ offers truth to us, and truth should never be accepted cheaply. We also should have so great a respect for the truth that, once convinced, we are willing to lay our whole existence upon it.
With regard to those of other religions, I would like to point out that they too deserve our respect. The various Christian denominations that have sprung up throughout the world since the early 1500's is as diverse as the people who follow them. From these churches have come many good and holy people, with a deep respect for scripture and sense of God's presence in our lives. They share many of our values, but hold them without the support of grace giving sacraments and the guidance of Christ's shepherds, our priests and ecclesiastics. Within these churches is often found suspicions about the Catholic Church, and misunderstandings of Her teachings, that, if they were true, would cause us to cringe in fear of our own Church. For this reason we must be very understanding, and careful in our explanations when questioned. We should appreciate the patience shown to us, as humble servants of Christ, and pray for their conversion and joyful understanding when the goodness of God's mysteries as seen in Catholicism is made clear to them.
With regard to our own efforts to evangelize, I'd like to quote the above book again: "Be very careful when you explain your faith to others, to say no more than you have the right to say." We should not be arrogant in our faith. Technically, we do not have the right to explain anything related to the Almighty God, but He has made known to us His desire that we should "go out and teach all nations." Do not pretend to know what you do not really know! If you are called to advise a friend, do so with humility, asking God to guide your words, and do not profess to know every solution. Refer, when interpreting the scriptures to them, to the teachings of the Church and Holy Fathers. God has sent His saints to us for a purpose, and we should accept their guidance. And yet, believe even those things you cannot explain courageously. While you speak a few words explaining the faith and morals to another person, let your mind burn with fervent prayers of faith to God.
A Catholic should sympathize even more readily with those belonging to the Jewish Faith. While most other religions are quick to accept that God has finally made Himself known to the world, these still suffer a lonely sense of exile. They await God's coming, and cling to His Old Covenant, bravely facing the rise of Christianity. Indeed, these are our ancestors, and we must pray that they find, with great rejoicing, that God's Kingdom has come, and embrace it wholeheartedly. Following surprisingly close on the topic of Judaism is Islam. Catholics, and other Christians, have a tendency to pushing aside the Muslim Faith as strange and out of the league of missionary endeavors. However, when one examines Islam he will find a deep set faith in God and respect for truth, as well as an almost mind-boggling sense of practicality. We must remember that Muslims strongly believe the faith they profess, and speak to them without condescension, but rather with an eager desire to share with them the magnificent mystery of God's love for man.
In today's world there is a growing sense of emptiness and materialism, that presupposes atheism. Without really knowing it, people are falling further and further into the denial and rejection of truth. But, as a John Paul II said, God calls us to "Be not afraid." After all, we do not have the time to be afraid! We, who find purpose in life and beauty in morality through the gift of our faith, have so much to give to those who are alone and afraid. The earth is in tears, and its people are distressed, but if we hold God in our hearts as our strength then we can give this strength to them. Jesus calls us to be beacons of light in a darkening world and, with Him, the Eternal Light, we shall find many thirsting to be filled. Do not think that you do no good, for it is when people are emptiest that they most readily embrace that which will fill them.
Jesus Christ has loved us with a love surpassing all other things, good and bad combined. He has given us a purpose, and by adopting us as brothers, sisters, sons, and daughters He has put a price on our foreheads that only He can pay. As heirs to Heaven, we are called to be proud of our faith! We are called to spread the good news with all our energy and fervor! We are called, quite simply, to sainthood. Jesus has blessed us, and placed His image upon us, and now He calls us to be an expression of Him to the world. Take this precious responsibility seriously, and be an apostle in word, faith, and deed.