Being Christ’s Ambassadors

Feb26,2020: Ash Wednesday
Joel 2:12-18
Psalms 51:3-6, 12-14
Second Corinthians 5:20–6:2
Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18

St Paul is writing to the Christians in Corinth, who are emerging from a crisis that divided their church community. Paul is still worried about them. Therefore, he encourages them to be generous with Christ, to put their whole lives under Christ’s rule. This is what St Paul means when he says, “we implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God!”

Each of us needs to hear that call. Each of us needs to put our whole lives under Christ’s rule, to stop resisting Him.

There are two ways of resisting Christ, two types of sins. First, we can take what doesn’t belong to us. These are sins of commission. Dishonesty, greed, lust, gluttony — these are ways of taking what doesn’t belong to us: things, pleasures, or opportunities.  Second, we can keep to ourselves what we should give to others. These are sins of omission. Kindness, forgiveness, help, patience — we owe these things to our brothers and sisters. When we hold them back, we fail to be like Christ.

One sin of omission is so common that we don’t even notice it anymore, but it causes untold damage. It consists in failing to be true to our primary mission as Christians, the mission of spreading the faith, instead of just keeping it to ourselves. As St Paul put it, “we are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us.”

Ambassadors bring the message of their leader to citizens of another country. Our leader is Christ. His message is the Gospel. All the people in our lives who don’t know Christ, who haven’t experienced His forgiveness, who are seeking happiness in all the wrong places — these are people God has sent us to.

Have we been delivering the message, or have we been holding it back?

To be good ambassadors for Christ, we must appreciate what Christ has done for us. If we haven’t let Christ make a difference in our lives, why would we want to share him with other people?

I recently read a true story about a woman who took her children out to a restaurant. Her six-year-old son asked to say grace. They bowed their heads and he said, “God is good, God is great. Thank you for the food, and I would even thank you more if Mom gets us ice cream for dessert. And liberty and justice for all! Amen!” Along with laughter from some nearby customers, the mom heard a woman remark, “That’s what’s wrong with this country. Kids today don’t even know how to pray. Asking God for ice cream! That’s ridiculous.” Hearing this, the little boy burst into tears and asked his mom, “Did I do it wrong? Is God mad at me?” As she held him and assured him that he had done a terrific job and God was certainly not mad at him, an elderly gentleman approached the table. He winked at the boy and said, “I happen to know that God thought that was a great prayer.” “Really?” the boy asked. “Cross my heart,” the man replied. Then in a theatrical whisper he added (indicating the woman whose remark had started this whole thing), “Too bad she never asks God for ice cream. A little ice cream is good for the soul sometimes.”

Naturally, the mom bought her kids ice cream at the end of the meal. Her son stared at his for a moment. Then he picked up his sundae and without a word, walked over and placed it in front of the woman. With a big smile he told her, “Here, this is for you. Ice cream is good for the soul sometimes; and my soul is good already.”

This little boy valued his relationship with God so much that he wanted that woman to experience what he had experienced.

Every one of us needs to be reconciled with God; otherwise we can’t be His ambassadors.

We need to experience again God’s goodness towards us; then we will be able to help others have that same experience.

Today the Church gives us three ways to do that: prayer, alms giving, and fasting.

Prayer has to do with our relationship with God. How is that relationship? Do we spend time together? Are we getting to know God better? Has some sin damaged this friendship, some sin that needs to be confessed? Without prayer and confession, our souls remain dark. How can we spread the light if our own souls are in the dark?

Alms giving has to do with our relationships with others. Are we loving our neighbor as ourselves? Do we look for ways to encourage and help those around us, both those who are close to us, like family, friends, and colleagues, and whomever else Providence puts in our path? Is there someone we need to forgive; someone from whom we need to ask forgiveness?

Fasting has to do with self-governance. Are we governing our selfish tendencies so that God’s grace has room to work in our lives, or are those tendencies governing us and blocking God’s grace? Has some destructive, sinful habit enslaved us? Do we need to receive God’s grace in confession and the Eucharist, make a fresh start in developing our capacity of self-governance?

Prayer, giving alms, and fasting, one of these resonated in your heart more than the others. One made you think, “Yah, I need to work on that.” Maybe it wasn’t the easiest one or the one you would like most, but whichever one resonated most, that’s the one God is inviting you to take on.

This Lent, starting today, say yes to that invitation. During this Mass, let’s ask our Lord to give us a fresh experience of His love and His goodness like the little boy who gave away his dessert, so that we in turn can fulfill our mission as Christ’s ambassadors, the only mission that gives real meaning to our lives.

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