I want to tell you a story and then speak about an “inconvenient truth” for Catholics.
A long time ago, in a far away place there lived a young boy from a wealthy family living in a foreign land. The boy was attended to by a poor native manservant named Rahsme who accompanied him everywhere during the day. The boy’s father, an important diplomat, had the finest tutors to see to the boy’s education, including a monk from the local monastery to look after his son’s spiritual needs.
Every afternoon the monk would sit in the garden of the boy’s house and read the Gospels to him and speak to him about Jesus. The monk, Fr. Dominic, spoke of God’s love for his people and his covenant with them to be their God and they - His people. He spoke about God’s love and mercy and how God wanted his people to be with him in heaven for eternity.
The boy, being just that - a young boy was not a very attentive student. He was often distracted by the birds, animals and insects that inhabited the garden rather than paying attention to his lessons. It was a frustrating time for Fr. Dominic, but being the good monk that he was, kept on with the lessons each day; speaking to the boy about Jesus from the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and telling the most marvelous stories of the glories of heaven and how we could not begin to imagine how much God loved us and how beautiful heaven is, where we will rest with God for ever.
Each day, as Fr. Dominic read from the Bible to the inattentive boy and spoke of the glories of heaven, there was one listener paying very close attention – Rahsme, the manservant. Rahsme sat in the corner of the garden and listened with rapt attention to the stories of Jesus, especially to Fr. Dominic’s descriptions of heaven and the words spoken by Jesus to his disciples. And each night Rahsme went home to his village and told his family, of which there was a great number, about Jesus, the love of God and the glory of heaven. His family loved to hear the stories while sitting around the fire – giving special attention to the words of Jesus in the Gospels. They were delighted to hear about being saved and spending eternity in heaven and they were greatly troubled when the stories spoke about sin and the fires of Gehenna.
This went on for a very long time – Rahsme listening to Fr. Dominic during the day and his retelling the stories he heard to his family in the evening.
One afternoon, after the lesson was completed as Fr. Dominic made his way back to the monastery he noticed Rahsme following behind him at some distance. Fr. Dominic stopped to wait for Rahsme to catch up to him. “What can I do for you, my brother?” said the monk as the manservant reached him.
Rahsme hesitated, not knowing what to say. Fr. Dominic said again, “What can I do for you, Rahsme? You have been following me instead of looking after the boy, what can be so important that you would leave him alone in the garden?”
Rahsme, in a trembling voice said, “He is not alone, my lord, my cousin is with him.”
“Good, it is not safe to leave such a young boy in the garden alone.” said Fr. Dominic. “What is so important that you leave your charge to follow me?”
Rahsme, encouraged by the words of Jesus in his heart said, “My wife gave birth to a son yesterday and we want to have him baptized, so he can be a Christian and be loved by God and go to the glory of heaven.”
Fr. Dominic was astonished by this and said, “You are not of our faith, why do you ask this of me?
“Good Father, I have listened every day to your stories of Jesus, God and heaven for a very long time now when you were teaching the boy and have told my wife and family all these marvelous stories too. We think this is the truth that you speak, of the love of God for all his children, so we want our child to be a child of God too.” said Rahsme.
“Bless you Rahsme,” replied Fr. Dominic. “God loves each of us and wants us all to be with him in heaven, so I would be very, very happy to baptize your son. Let us go to your village now to make your son a child of God.”
“If it would make you very, very happy to baptize my son, Master Dominic, then you will be very, very happy a hundred fold to learn that my entire family also wants to become children of God too.” said Rahsme. So together they set off to baptize Rahsme’s entire family to make of them Disciples of Christ.
We never know who we will affect when we spread the Word of God in the world. By our words and by our actions we are known as disciples of Jesus – spreading the Word of God to all we meet.
This brings me to that “inconvenient truth” I mentioned - evangelization. We are all called by our baptism to evangelize in the world – “to go out into the world and make disciples.” Evangelization is not just for missionaries in foreign lands, but for each one of us to bring the Word of God to all who have ears to hear.
It is our baptismal right and duty:
- to speak of God’s great love for all his people, especially to those who have never heard the Word of God
- to remind those who have heard the Word, but for some reason failed to understand its importance to their lives
- to speak the Word of God to those who have hardened their hearts; turning their back on God – closing their ears to his message of love and mercy and
- to encourage those who have listened to the Word of God – calling them into a deeper relationship with God
We are responsible for all our brothers and sisters in the world – bringing them closer to God and to his great reward of life everlasting in heaven. We are the tools in God’s hand – accomplishing his will – spreading his message of love and peace – mercy and forgiveness -- for all his children, so that they may rest with him in his kingdom - forever and ever.