The Pitch

April 24, 2016 | N W | Commitment, Deacon Eddie, Discipleship, Evangelization, Mission, Saints

Fifth Sunday of Easter
April 24, 2016 – Year C
Readings: Acts 14:21-27 / Ps 145 / Rev 21:1-5A / Jn 13:31-33A, 34-35
by Rev. Mr. Eddie Craig, Permanent Deacon

As I get older, I become more and more impressed with how inspiration can come in the strangest places. As I was preparing to preach today, I read over the readings, starting with the gospel.

I read the gospel and I thought, “OK, love one another.”  Got that.  Then I went back to the first reading, from the Acts of the Apostles.  Acts of the Apostles is the early history of the fledgling Christian church.  As I read it, it occurred to me that it sounded like a baseball card.

I don’t know why I thought that.  Maybe because it’s Spring, and the Hillcats are starting to play, and I’ve been trying to figure out how I can get to a game.  My brain is a very busy place, so it runs around all over the place.

I never collected baseball cards but I did have a few when I was young, so I’m familiar with the format.  On the front of the card is a picture of the player.  You flip the card over, and there’s a short paragraph about him and a list of stats.  To me, the first reading reads like the paragraph on the back of a baseball card.  I thought: Wow, wouldn’t it be cool if St. Paul had a baseball card? He could be holding a sword instead of a bat.

It turns out he does have a card.  There are the equivalent of baseball cards for the saints.  They’re called Holy Traders.  If you don’t believe me, just Google them.  As you can expect, St. Paul has his own.

As I reflected on this, it occurred to me that the purpose of baseball cards and of these Holy Traders is to increase interest in what they represent. Baseball cards are designed and intended to keep young people (and some people that are not so young) interested in baseball when not at a baseball game.  These Holy Traders are designed to keep people interested in the saints when they’re not at church.

When it comes right down to it, both types of cards are actually sales tools.  However, the Holy Traders, while they’re designed to keep us interested in the Saints, are not really selling the saints.  These cards are a sales tool to help sell Jesus Christ.  I’m not talking about making a monetary profit off of our Lord.  That would be sacrilege.  What I’m talking about is a tool to help convince the world that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life.  It is a tool to help us convince the world that the only way that we can calm the restlessness that is inherent in all of our hearts is to place ourselves in His heart.  They are to help us to convince the world that ultimate joy only comes from completely surrendering ourselves to the God who loved us so much that he became one of us for the sole purpose of dying for us.

And you see the responsibility of acting as salespersons for the Lord lies on every one of the sons and daughters of God.  That’s me and that’s you.  We can always do a better job of our sales pitch.  Jesus told his disciples “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit and teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”

By all accounts, less than one-third of the world is Christian.  Many people have not heard the Good News of Jesus Christ and many people have heard about Him but have not accepted that message.  Unfortunately, some of the blame for this can lie on us.  As I was driving the other day, I saw a bumper sticker on a minivan.  It had a quote that is normally attributed to Gandhi.  You’ve probably heard it:  “I like your Christ.  I don’t like your Christians.”  The rest of this quote goes on to say, “Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

If I’m honest with myself, I can say sometimes I fall short on my sales pitch, and I need to do a better job.  I need to prepare myself better so that I can do my part in selling the world on our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

But there are some things we should not do.  We should not simplify our faith, because being a follower of Jesus is not only about being a good person.  Yes, that is one part but that’s not it.  Being a follower of Christ is not about fear of Hell.  It’s about love of God.  It’s not all about happy stuff and unicorns and rainbows.  It’s about being a light, a light in a world that is filled with darkness.

The other thing we should not do is water down our message.  I’m not saying we should feed it at the rate of a firehose.  You’ve heard the expression “You can’t take a sip out of a firehose.”  But we shouldn’t water it down; we shouldn’t leave parts out because after all, teachings of the Church are there for our own good and the good of the world.  It’s like when you were little, and the grown-ups made you eat vegetables before you got to the dessert.

So what should we do?  The first thing we should do is realize that our job is to present Jesus Christ to the world.  It’s not our job to convert them.  That’s the job of the Holy Spirit.  We should seek to be a catalyst and not a barrier and allow the Holy Spirt to do His job.  We should work to bring ourselves closer to Christ.  We should learn about Christ.  We should meet Him in prayer and the sacraments. You wouldn’t buy an appliance from someone who didn’t know anything about it.

The last thing we should do is practice what we preach.  We need to walk the walk while we’re talking the talk.  We need to be free with kindness and stingy with criticism.  Now, believe me, I’m not saying you should never criticize.  It is our job to point out error but there is a way to do it with love and respect.  Do not follow the lead of our current political environment.

The other thing we should do is let the joy of the Gospel shine through to the world.  Let them see your love for Christ.  Let them see how your life has been changed, how your faith has been strengthened, how your joy has been magnified.  You wouldn’t buy Brand A car from a salesman who’s driving Brand B, would you?

Finally, each one of us needs to make it our goal to have our own Holy Trader card and to be an example, to be a sales tool.  We should picture ourselves on the card and we should work to achieve that, whether we ever make it there officially or not. We should picture what we would want our little paragraph to say.  Personally, I would want my paragraph to say: “Everyone could tell he was a follower of Christ because of the great love he showed to everybody.”