Collect: May the venerable exercises of holy devotion shape the hearts of your faithful, O Lord, to welcome worthily the Paschal Mystery and proclaim the praises of your salvation.
So today, my group was assigned to help out at Pinellas Hope, a tent city run by Catholic Charities in the Diocese of St. Petersburg. The way it functions is it screens homeless people who can stay for a maximum of three months, with increases on a case by case basis. While inside, people receive access to healthcare, career services, spiritual direction, food, and stable shelter.
Our job was to serve lunch and then sit at a table and then talk with some of the people who lived at Pinellas Hope. Me, being a shy and relatively not outgoing person, decided to sit next to a man and woman at a table.
The man was quiet; I tried striking up a conversation, but he just finished his food and left.
When I went up to get a drink and sat back down, the woman at the table asked if I was Christian.
I replied that yes, I am a Catholic.
She then asked if I believed that Jesus came down to save us.
Of course I replied yes.
She then asked if I knew this person, whose name I don’t remember, then she pulled out her phone and asked me to watch a video. Turns out it was a televangelist. She then talked something about blood moons and how the next lunar eclipse is the start of the end of the world. She literally believed that the end of the world was going to start this Friday.
She then busted out all of these Bible verses from various books, including Acts, Ephesians, Daniel, Joel, among others, and thus arrived the perennial example of the Catholic dilemma. There was me, who could quote Church teaching, but very few Bible verses, then there was this woman, who could quote the Bible, but of course, not know Church teaching.
Everything she was saying was literally the opposite of what it was I stood for in terms of the faith.
She then asked what I thought was the point of the Book of Revelation.
I replied that it was about the second coming of Jesus and it was also an outline for what should be the proper Liturgy. She responded by saying that it was about humans doing bad things and Jesus is coming down to punish all of us with some disasters and what not.
I then replied that I believe that Jesus will come again, and he will judge us mercifully and justly.
What happened next was a total surprise for me.
She smiled and asked to pray over me. I said, okay, and she held my hand and asked for the Holy Spirit to come bless me.
After that, she told me that she was actually raised Catholic, and received the sacraments up to Confirmation, but one thing let to another, and now she is a Charismatic evangelical. She still held firm to her apocalyptic beliefs, but I said that I prayed that we could become one Church again.
She responded that she prays for that too.
After that, I had to go, so I thanked her for her time and told her that I would pray for her, and all she did was smile.
Yo, of all the people I could have talked to that day, God had to place me with a person who really challenged me. I knew that I didn’t know Scripture as well as I would have liked, but I knew that if I could change the topic to God’s love, then something could change.
That brings us to looking at how do we approach others who believe differently from us. We are not all called to be super theologians or apologists who can carefully construct arguments against false teaching. There are geniuses blessed with that ability, and I sure know I am not one of them. We are however, all called to love. Our lives should be a witness of God’s love. And as we stand with Holy Mother Church, we should spread the knowledge of that love with the hope that others may stand together with you as we wait for God.
Let us all continue to learn more of God’s mercy and love for us, and let us all continue to spread that love to the people around us.
Let us continue to learn the truth, and let us continue in spreading the truth.
“For God so loved the world, he sent his only begotten son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish, but have eternal life.” ~John 3:16
Have a blessed Lent.