To declare oneself for Jesus … is simply to act like Christ towards others, and act today for a better tomorrow
Our Gospel ends today with an invitation from Jesus: “if anyone declares himself for me in the presence of men, I will declare myself for him in the presence of my Father in heaven.”
Does this mean I have to start shouting out the name of Jesus on the street corners or in our discussion groups at a party? “Hey, guys, by the way, ‘I’m for Jesus’. What about you?” It might be that way, but I think most people would quickly send us off to the mental asylum.
We usually declare ourselves for Jesus by what we do and how we do it; and by how we respond to unfair treatment. I’m excited to share a story from one of our Oblate youth in Nairobi, named after the one who slept with lions in the O/T. After applying for a Government job three or four years ago, he finally received an interview last year and subsequently got the job. In his office, they have a lot of attachment trainees come every three months.
He noticed that many of them are related to other staff members or people with connections. But, there are some who come looking hungry: the ones with no money. Often he buys a cup of tea or some lunch for them. One day, in the presence of his colleagues, one asked him: “are you a Catholic?” He was a bit surprised by the question, but courageously said: “Yes, I’m a catholic. Why do you ask?” The other young man replied: “I just wondered, because it’s usually Catholics who give something without expecting anything in return. Thank you.”
I’m very proud of our Nairobi youth, because I’m sure most, or all of them, could also fit in that story. So often, many of them have sacrificed the little they have to visit the children’s homes, and even other members who have fallen on hard times.
I think this loudly proclaims a declaration for Jesus in the presence of others. At the same time, I hasten to add how I’ve seen many non-Catholics do wonderful things to help others.
But, it is not easy for any of us: we fear not having enough for ourselves; we fear being betrayed later. So Jeremiah is a great example to us in the First reading: it’s OK to speak of our fears, but never give up hope: keep helping others and speaking the truth.
The follow-up conclusion by Jesus is a bit more challenging: “But the one who disowns me in the presence of men, I will disown in the presence of my Father…” This comes true if we are selfish today, and poor tomorrow, no one will care for us. As they say, live by the sword, die by the sword. But, to live by loving others, is to live happy tomorrow.
However, so that we don’t reduce the invite of Jesus to just being kind to others, we must also reflect on the opening lines of today’s Gospel: what is covered will be uncovered, shout from house-tops. What is this all about? It’s a call to HONESTY and courage, and also a warning!
If we relate this to constructing a house, it’s amazing what “sins” a contractor can hide behind a bit of concrete or plaster. But a few months after he leaves, cracks start appearing. The Contractor might install low pressure plastic pipes for the hot water line and leaks start behind the wall and create wet stains. Then, the Client (the owner) will start shouting from the rooftop to anyone who will listen: this contractor is crooked! They may lodge a complaint at the Court house and the Contractor can lose his business and even his own house.
Often during a drought, with receding water levels in storage dams, we discover much rubbish dumped into the dams. Even crimes have been solved because a car wreck suddenly appears!
Nowadays, the Police have new forensic and DNA evidence to unlock and solve past crimes. Criminals are finally being captured after 20 or 40 years. Just in the last two years a special EncroChat system was cracked by the Police in Europe (the French actually), and 1,500 criminals involved in drugs and murder have been arrested.
In Kenya, we were “shocked” by the panama papers (2021) which exposed huge amounts of overseas money for politicians. The message is clear: cheat today, be exposed tomorrow.
Nowadays, many criminals and cheaters live in fear of exposure, including the continuing exposure of child abuse cases inside our own Church. As the Pope said: it is shameful and painful. Now, what will we do about it? Will we stand up for the truth?
I’m sad to see that going to Mass each week is becoming a life-threatening challenge for many Christians around the world. I encourage all of us to never stop, a quiet declaration for Jesus. Let’s pray for our Fr Marcellus OMI, kidnapped in Nigeria last weekend. The minute I was writing this, news came that he has been released. Thank God: he declared himself for Jesus.
And, finally, with the family under attack, declaring ourselves for Jesus could be as simple as spending more time with our children and youth. Because they will remember, and stand for us when we get older and unable to look after ourselves.
By Gerard Conlan, OMI