I THOUGHT YOU SHOULD KNOW | Witnessing to the world starts with witnessing to God’s mercy

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'Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known.' 

In the Gospel reading for the 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Jesus speaks in powerful imperatives, simply telling us that the time has come for the Gospel to explode on the world, and that we're the ones to make this happen.

One translation puts it this way: "What was concealed, must be revealed; what was secret, must be made known; what was said in darkness, must be spoken in light; what was whispered, must be shouted."

It's almost as if Jesus says: "It is time that the Gospel breaks out upon the world in such a way that the world will see the good news exploding in changed behavior, and I have chosen you to translate the good news into good deeds that will reveal the goodness of God in our midst."

This doesn't mean that people will like you for really living the Gospel. No. Your living the Gospel will threaten them because it will remind them that they must change their lives if they want to inherit the kingdom of heaven.

Therefore, because man's eternal destiny is at stake, don't be afraid of opposition you encounter. While they may threaten to take away your body, and potentially succeed in doing so, don't fear because they can't take away your eternal inheritance.

Jesus continues: "What is spoken to you in darkness, speak in the light." In other words, what Jesus gives in the depths of your heart in prayer, live that word in the light of all to see. Again, "What you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetop." In other words: "Reflect on my word in prayer, and I will help you bring that word alive in lived behavior that will confound others with the truth! They may not be saved unless they see my word come alive in your hearts!"

Jesus then points out that our Father in heaven knows all about us and cares deeply. "So, do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows." For our spiritual good, we're to give witness to Jesus and the Father. "Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father. But whoever denies me before others, I will deny before my heavenly Father." These are very powerful words of assurance that Jesus will do His part if we do ours.

In the first reading, Jeremiah explains what fear of others is all about. He heard the whispers of others, saying: "Denounce him." Even his friends have joined forces with his enemies. They're waiting for any misstep, saying: "Perhaps he will be trapped; then we can prevail, and take our vengeance on him."

However Jeremiah is courageous, saying: "But the Lord is with me, like a mighty champion: my persecutors will stumble, they will not triumph." He celebrates: "Sing to the Lord, praise the Lord, for He has rescued the life of the poor from the power of the wicked!"

The first step in becoming a witness is to become a witness to His mercy. This always begins with repentance.

Repentance isn't self-condemnation or turning against oneself because of an inability to overcome sin. Repentance starts with asking Jesus for the grace to see where we need to repent. This request brings great relief. It frees us from the obsessive habit of denial of sin. To insist on denying that we're sinners is truly exhausting. On the other hand, it also saves us from self-condemnation.

However, when I ask Jesus and the Holy Spirit to help me, I instantly feel relief when I am shown my sins, because forgiveness is immediate. I also bring venial sins to confession to receive the healing of the sacrament, knowing they are forgiven the instant I express remorse and contrition.

This brings joy to my heart and a smile to my face. I'm no longer my own messiah, but I have surrendered my life to Jesus and take delight in His forgiveness. I can then live a freer life, safe from self-condemnation and self-hatred. I live in the joy of being a forgiven sinner.

As a joyful, forgiven sinner, I'm less afraid of myself and my reactions to other people. I'm less afraid of speaking to them about anything. If I'm cheerful and joyful, they will be attracted to me. If I have a listening heart, I will wait until they bring up an agenda about which they want to ask questions.

My role is to radiate to others the joy of being Jesus' follower. I don't have to prove anything to anybody. I just have to be a joyful, forgiven sinner who has become a good listener. Many people have heavy hearts and hesitate to entrust them to anyone. However, if you're a very peaceful person, they will risk bringing up a topic because they're looking for relief. Your silence and peace create a safe environment for them to explore unhappiness, or vent anger, as the case may be.

Patient listening to them enables them to explore feelings they have buried a long time ago. They suddenly feel that you accept them for whom they are, and suddenly they feel more valued as a person. At this point they may ask you how you do it.

This then becomes an invited time for you to share what Jesus has done for you. Since you have given them time to explore their hidden feelings and failures, they will be most open to your suggestions. You're then speaking to their expressed needs. Without knowing it, you have given them a new hope to face their challenges. This is evangelization. 

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