Saturday, January 14, 2012

Fleas or disciples

I remember as a child the warnings from parents about being careful about "the company you keep." The more southern form when parents disapproved of someone was, "You lie down with dogs;you get up with fleas."

Following today's gospel those parents would have made great scribes. When Jesus calls Levi the tax collector, like Abram in Genesis the gospel simply tells us that he went. Without question, without argument, he followed Jesus.

The scene then switches to the house of Levi where Jesus is so surrounded by sinners that some scribes comment on it. It takes little imagination to envision the commentary of the scribes. Jesus' response is simple. "Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners." It is worth noting that Jesus is not there to scold them, but to eat with them.

We Christians in the US and Europe have built some of the most beautiful churches one could imagine, but have we lost sight of the primary mission, "Go, therefore, and make disciples."

The command starts with Go. We may say our doors are open to all. We may be welcoming to those who come. But how many of our parishes actually go out personally to evangelize?

I was taken aback by the negative response of some to Jon Huntsman's demonstrating his ability to speak Chinese. My understanding is that his fluency in Chinese come from the same places as Mitt Romney's fluency in French, their time as missionaries. While we may not share their theology, we should admire their dedication to the ancient Christian task of evangelization.

Our grandmothers were in fact wrong. They warned, "Lie down with dogs; get up with fleas." Jesus showed us, "Eat with sinners, get up with disciples." Example, personal contact, relationship are the keys to evangelization. The task cannot be done only with TV commercials, websites, or preaching in churches. Every Christian must look for those simple opportunities to share their faith with others.