Go out to all the world and tell the Good News.
My Sisters and Brothers in Christ:
Everyone likes to hear a good story. I have found that when I am surrounded by people, I simply listen and enjoy their stories about family, friends, love of God, faith. Everyone has a story to tell. What is your story?
When we are baptized, we become part of the story of salvation history. Our heritage begins with Adam and Eve and we walk with the Israelites in the desert; Moses tells us about the commandments; we feel the frustration of the people as they seek the promised land; we rejoice with the shepherds at the birth of Christ; we mourn with Mary, our blessed Mother, as Jesus is crucified on the Cross. All of this is our heritage and yet we are called to create and participate in our own heritage of faith. Then, once we have right-fitted our story, God says, “Go out to all the world and tell the Good News.”
What is your story? Some of you have said, well, Bishop, it is not very interesting. I was baptized as a baby and that’s that. Really? Your faith life is one moment in time? Your story is as unique as you are; and your story is marvelous in God’s eye. For those of you who can’t articulate your story, ask yourself why you participate in the celebration of Mass on Sunday. Why do you make donations to Catholic Charities of Central Florida? Why did you participate in the Sacrament of Marriage? What made you decide to baptize your children? Why do you educate them in the Catholic faith? Who do you call when you need to make difficult decisions? Why do you pray?
Our faith stories are the fabric of our parish communities. Your story welcomes another into the arms of Christ. Your story sustains a person who is suffering from loneliness or despair. Your story enfolds the lost into the bread from heaven. By virtue of our Baptism, every Catholic is called to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ – a mission which cannot be separated from the Catholic Church. Pope Francis said, “It is truly [our] Baptism that makes us missionaries. A baptized person who does not feel the need to proclaim the Gospel, to announce Jesus, is not a good Christian.”
We may find the announcing part, to which the Holy Father refers, somewhat intimidating. By living faith-filled, your story, your ‘announcing’ is already occurring naturally. This lived faith is made known by the words we speak, by the choices we make, by the prayers we pray. We are called to be purposeful about it. A lived faith is not one that only happens on Sunday when we participate in the celebration of Mass. A lived faith is 24,7,365. It never ceases. A lived faith is grounded in the Good News of Jesus Christ. Every baptized person is called to witness or ‘announce’, in his or her environment of life, the Gospel of Christ. We must find ways to put our faith into action, our creeds into deeds, our beliefs into our behaviors. We ask the Holy Spirit to flow through us to offer small acts of kindness, words of encouragement, and bountiful expressions of courtesy and respect.
The Blessed Virgin Mary and the saints are good examples of sharing stories. They point to the center as Christ, and are examples of humble workers of the Kingdom. They did not work to advance themselves or their own ideas or interests, but acted always as messengers sent by Jesus. The Blessed Virgin Mary is the first disciple and missionary of the Word of God. Her story is our story to share.
What is your story? May our stories be a humble and radiant exultation, to make straight the path for those who hear.