Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who defame your good conduct in Christ may themselves be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that be the will of God, than for doing evil. 1st Peter 3:16-17
This is from this morning’s second reading. I think it captures the whole spirit of what it means to evangelize. “Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope.” One of the great marks of a believer is he or she carries hope within themselves, no matter the circumstances that surround them. It is so remarkable that others begin to wonder how they can be hopeful in a time like this. Evangelization is not argumentative nor does it hold Christianity as the singular source of “rightness” or truth. It begins with a relationship with Jesus Christ. As we come to know him in a personal way and allow his Holy Spirit to enter our hearts certain aspects of our encounter with the world begins to become altered. Instead of getting caught up in the worries of the world we begin to realize that God is in charge and all will be done in accordance to His will.
This is where we begin to draw our reason for hope; that there is something greater than ourselves guiding the whole human story. For the early Christians, what we would consider an insanity descends upon them. They are persecuted for being different than the rest of society. We have been listening to the remarkable early Christian community that welcomed everyone, even those who brought about the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. They treated each other as brothers and sisters. This situation doesn’t last too long. We hear last week that St. Peter decided to create the Order of Deacons because there was a complaint that the Greek widows were not getting their fair share of the common table. Paul has to remind the Corinthians and the Galatians that there is neither Greek or Jew, male or female, slave or free in Christ’s body (the Church).
Even as that slide into human inertia occurs the leaders call them back to the great vision: we are more than ourselves as individuals and guided by the Holy Spirit we are the embodiment of Christ himself. In our more modern moment we would say “We are changing lives” by gathering as a faith community on a regular basis; being reminded of who we really are and once again being sent out into the world. Let’s try to live up to St. Peter’s encouragement: Let’s give others the chance to ask for the reason for our hope in this present day.