“I don’t care what church my roommates attend or if they go to church at all. It’s not my business. I hate people pushing their religion and flaunting their piety. It’s egotistical and obnoxious.”
That rant from a generally easy-going student wasn’t surprising. Many Catholics react negatively to explicit promotions of religion. Yet, the gospels make it obvious that Jesus clearly recruited others to carry his message far and wide. The last sentences of Matthew tell how he promised to work with the disciples while they preached his message.
Jesus wasn’t a my-religion-is-my-business guy. He knew that his message would free people from the fears that stifled their ability to love others and advance the common good. He was revealing God’s love and wanted his followers to do the same.
Over the years many have felt the need to explain my work to me. Their observations are often insightful. But not always. One man spent a very long bus ride telling me that we were in the same “racket”: sales. “You’ve got a product to sell and you try to get people to buy. You sell religion; I sell cars. Same thing.” More than a little alcohol fueled his need to convince me of our common occupation but his take on my work isn’t uncommon. And his take was a mistake.
When we accept baptism, we agree to pass on our experience of God’s love. We do that by loving others and by encouraging their efforts to love. We also pass it on by telling how Jesus’ life assured us of God’s love.
If we tell the story of Jesus’ love by our own love and respect, his revelation continues in us. “Live what you preach,” a wise priest told me. “You can keep your homilies shorter.”
Being Jesus’ love for others, frees us from obsessing over whether they use the correct language to express their faith. We’ll be more intent on showing our respect for the promise of their lives and the good they’re accomplishing. That’s never obnoxious.