I THOUGHT YOU SHOULD KNOW | God calls each of us to be a witness for His mercy

In the readings for the 22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time, God is speaking directly to your heart and mine when He tells us: "You son of man, I have appointed watchman for the house of Israel." In this context, the term "son of man" refers to every son and daughter of Adam and Eve. God is appointing you and me to be recruiters for His kingdom.

Before you and I can be a watchman for others, we need to be observant and vigilant witnesses to the Gospel in our own lives. This means that we allow the Gospel daily to measure our behavior with our family members, work associates and friends. This call to conviction and to repentance opens our hearts to receive the mercy of God.

Receiving the mercy of God makes us happy, joyful and radiant disciples of Jesus. Reception of God's goodness is everything. This is how God recruits His children into His kingdom, through His living presence in our daily thoughts, our words and our deeds. If we are truly possessed by God, then God has the freedom to use our lives as He desires.

This is exactly what our world needs at this time. Take a look at the destruction caused in the Middle East by terrorist groups. Take a look at the wholesale slaughter of Christians by terrorist groups. I am convinced that the witness of these Christians will be no less effective than the witness of Stephan was to Saul, when Saul approved the stoning death of Stephan.

Some of the terrorist groups even consider Christianity to be weak, because these Christians aren't violent when persecuted. What the terrorists don't know is that what they label as "weakness" might very well be the very "strength" that will convert them and save them from the Evil One. This strength is God's love alive in the Christians who are steadfast in their beliefs and who forgive their murderers.

If these persecuted Christians are called to be spokespersons to the terrorists, aren't you and I, on a much smaller but equally important scale, called to be spokespeople for God's mercy in dealing with our children, our family members and co-workers. If we actively are receiving God's mercy daily through prayer and repentance, then we have the courage to invite others to measure their behavior by the same Gospel standards that God uses to transform us.

If we really are processing our daily thoughts, feelings and actions in prayer, then we will not be afraid of our own anger or our own weaknesses when inviting others to open their hearts to the Lord's teachings. In fact, we will consider it a real privilege of sharing in the Lord's mission of gathering others into His Father's kingdom.

Paul tells us: "Owe nothing to anyone, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law." It isn't your cleverness or my cleverness that recruits souls for the kingdom of Jesus Christ. It is Christ alive in transforming our hearts, giving us a hunger and a desire to see others in the kingdom with us that is making a difference in our families and friends.

In the Gospel, Jesus Himself tells us: "If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone." Jesus wants to turn this private hurt into a private grace for our brother or our sister. What an opportunity to be Christ's witness of love and mercy. This small event won't make the evening news or the morning paper but will get the attention of the whole heavenly court.

If our brother or sister doesn't listen to us, Jesus invites us to recruit other witnesses to help convert this individual in need of Christ's mercy and love. Jesus doesn't guarantee that we will be successful. Being successful in our efforts isn't the issue, but being faithful to Jesus is.

Once a recalcitrant sinner successfully has resisted our best efforts and those of others, all is not lost. He tells us, "I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything for which they are to pray, it shall be granted them by my heavenly Father." What a powerful weapon these words are. In other words, a sinner can save face and reassure himself that he successfully withstood our witness. Yet, what he or she might not understand is the powerful force of our prayerful intercession.

Do you now understand more fully why we can be such witnesses of hope in the midst of a dysfunctional family, broken relationships, racial hurts and misunderstandings and even the martyrdom of thousands of Christians by terrorists whose actions are crying out for our intercessory prayers and forgiveness?

The answer is very simple. God is all-powerful, all-loving and all-forgiving, and there is no limit to what He can do through us. If we really are alive with God in our hearts, then we have in our hearts the answer for every challenge and threat we face.

Human depravity, persecution and hatred are only our desperate cry to an all-powerful God to come alive in our hearts and in our midst. The God in you and the God in me is far greater than the Evil One in all terrorists put together. In a sense, by attacking us, the Evil One is only hastening his own defeat. How do I know? I took a peek at the end of the Bible. For all eternity, I want to be with the angels and saints who are praising the Lamb who was slain! Now is the time to get warmed up and to practice.

Click here to visit the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishop's daily Scripture readings page.

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