WE ARE ADVERTIZEMENTS OF OUR CULTURES
Twenty-Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
My dear encountered couples:
“Conduct yourselves in a way worthy of the gospel of Christ.” That is what Paul wrote in his letter to the Philippians. “Conduct yourselves in a way worthy of the gospel of Christ.”
As Catholics we have a heavy responsibility. Maybe I should say instead of a heavy or grave responsibility that we have a far-reaching responsibility. How we live, how we act affects not only us and our reputations, it affects others and their reputations. What we do affects the reputations of all other Catholics and Christians throughout the world. It even affects the reputation of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Please try to understand what I am saying.
There is a lot of prejudice in the world. There is a lot of suspicion of other races, of other nations, of other groups of people. A reason for at least some of this, if not for much of this prejudice and suspicion, is because there have been members of these races and nations and groups who by their actions have tarnished the reputation of all those associated with them.
Let me begin with a few examples from the animal kingdom: If a child is bitten by a dog, it can lead to that child being afraid of dogs for the rest of his life. When he grows up he might teach his children to dislike dogs, never allowing them to have a cuddly puppy of their own.
The same when a cat scratches you. It can lead to becoming so frightened of cats that for the rest of our lives we will avoid going into the house of anyone who has one.
Most of us are afraid of snakes. Why? Because we have seen jungle movies and heard stories of snakes whose bite is poisonous and fatal. Yet there are more harmless snakes than there are dangerous ones. Because of the bad rap given to the reptile kingdom by snakes who have not acted as we might wish them to, most of us avoid them like the plague. Because a few snakes are dangerous, there is a goodly percentage of humans who will take time out to kill every snake they come across. There was a driver who crossed over the center line of a “No Passing” zone just to run over a snake he saw on the other side of the road.
I need say no more about animals. But it is quite evident that the behavior of one animal can affect the reputation of many. THE SAME WITH HUMAN BEINGS!
When a man acts irresponsibly towards a woman, when a man shows disrespect towards a woman, when a man violates a woman, it not only tarnishes his name and reputation, it leads to putting into the minds of women that they must be suspicious and distrustful of men - all men.
When a friend disappoints us, betrays us, uses us, talks badly about us behind our backs, we might tend to become very suspicious of all our friends, and vow to avoid making future friendships. When a little boy or girl lies and steals, there are adults who will then suspect that all little boys and girls lie and steal.
When the wealthy underpay their employees, using them only for their own financial benefit, not showing them and their families consideration, it puts into the mind of laborers that the rich are selfish, cold, and uncaring about the needs of the less fortunate. And the wealthy are the first to start an arm struggle.
When white people treat black people like second and third rate citizens, or not like citizens at all, it puts into the minds of blacks that all whites are their adversaries, their enemies, that they can never be their peaceful neighbors and friends. When a black person robs a store, mugs somebody, or commits any crime whatsoever, especially towards somebody not of his own color, it helps greatly to solidify in the minds of people of other colors the suspicions and prejudices towards blacks that is already too greatly prevalent in our country.
This can be said of any race or color. If an oriental deals in illegal drugs, if a Spanish speaking person steals cars, if a Native American Indian tells a lie, it harms the reputation of every other oriental, Spanish person, and Indian in the country.
We are all advertisements of those associated with us by race, color, creed, or however. If we truly love our neighbor then we will not let ourselves diminish his or her reputation by what we do. We must become very aware that there is nothing we do that affects only us.
When one car dealer, one politician, one lawyer, or one judge, acts unethically, it ruins the name of many of those in the same professions. When one priest does anything unexpected of a representative of Christ, the sexual abuse of children for instance, it taints the reputation of all priests.
We are Catholic. You and I claim to be Christian. When our Catholicity and Christianity involves only our Sunday or weekday church going, our faith can be judged as anemic, in other words, very weak. If we are ever unloving and unforgiving, greedy or dishonest in our personal or business lives, people see us as hypocrites. And they may easily be influenced to look upon all Catholics and Christians as hypocrites.
When someone outside the Church notices that we are often complaining, often being judgmental towards others, that we don’t seem to be kind and concerned people, they begin to greatly doubt that any good comes to those who believe in Jesus Christ. When they don’t find us any more joyful and hopeful than non-Christians they tend to become convinced that Christianity has little to offer.
“Conduct yourselves,” wrote St. Paul, “in a way worthy of the gospel of Christ.” Why? Because by the way we live and act we influence to the good or to the bad the opinions of other people about ourselves, the Church, and Jesus Christ.