“Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father.” (Matthew 10:32)
What a great promise from the Lord! Jesus tells the Apostles in our Gospels about the joy that lies ahead for them by their witness, testimony, and the lives they lead based on how they know and love him. It is through the witness of the Apostles we know of Jesus and are expected to give the same witness, testimony, and lead lives that are based on who he is to us. Such a covenant is an open declaration of being Christian in the world and witnessing his Good News. It is by word and deed that we are to proclaim Christ alive in us.
However, we don’t like to hear the second part of his covenant — that if we turn away — deny Christ — he will deny us. Painful thought. Joyful thought is that generations have given witness — by now billions! Where would we be without this claiming of Christ? No church, no consolation in suffering, no joy in new and eternal life, no sense of conscience, morality, or a community of supporting believers! Without the witness, we would not have had women and men living a vowed life in offering service to all in need. Just think about all the hospitals, schools, ministry and care for persons suffering in poverty, and the billions of people that would suffer without such apostolic witness to Christ — in word and deed.
Yes, the lack of witness also happens. Sad to say, there are times when any one of us can slip into denial about Jesus — remain silent because we don’t want to make waves, make people feel uncomfortable, let people think we are Jesus freaks — all those fears that lead to silence. I read about someone who when asked by a priest if he was a Catholic was quite indignant and said of course he was. The priest then asked him if he went to Sunday Mass. He said, “I’m a Catholic, not a fanatic.”
Verbal denials: Sometimes we may fear being ostracized — people excluding themselves from our company due to our claiming a life in Christ. I think about how blessed we are to have St. Peter and all his human foibles that give us hope for grace from Jesus to help our daily conversion.
As we know, Peter denied the Lord — three times — averting association with Jesus in fear of being killed right along with him. Then Peter is martyred — legend has it that it was on the road just outside of Rome where he was crucified upside down to show his humility (unworthiness to be crucified in the same manner as the Lord) and to show his great sorrow about his denial.
Our actions may also serve to deny the Lord. Perhaps the denial comes in living a life of excess and not sharing our blessings, harboring bigotry and not being sensitive to the plight of those who are less fortunate, etc. the many ways that our deeds can disavow our claim on Christ.
The claim on Christ begins at home: How often do parents have an opportunity to give witness to Christ in the home — in prayers with their family, those all-important discussions about the issues teens face and help them make Christian choices, and encouragement to stand up against the challenge to be popular. Haven’t we all been there? We need to pray daily for our teens and what they face daily.
There is the help needed during those at times painful transitions from puberty, to adolescence to young adulthood. Parents need to help their children learn how to make that evolution from childhood forms of prayer to ones that are more suitable for adult life. While the prayers learned as a child stay with us, the various means of prayer should be learned as our children mature. I don’t think there is any pulpit as important as the dinner table in the family home; homilies that will last a lifetime and ripple through generations — when based in the love of Christ.
Full and active participation will be ongoing as Christians grow deeper in their faith and learn other forms of prayer in a loving nurturing environment that supports such prayer and faith — in the home.
I read about a priest who had a motto hanging in his room that said, “You are the only Gospel some people will ever read.” What a beautiful connection to covenant.
We have a long hope-filled way to go in our church to help build not only a vocabulary to express our faith, but help express the content of our faith as we encounter daily challenges. Perhaps then more people won’t subconsciously or consciously deny the Lord, but be better able to claim him always.
We need to work together to help provide access to this rich, vast and awesome gift of witnessing Jesus the Christ and to declare ourselves for him with joy, pride and love.