Pope Francis recently called for all Christians to give an apology to various people we have offended or marginalized in our lives.
Hearing this request, my first reaction was to become somewhat defensive particularly on the issue of homosexuality – “How can we apologize for proclaiming the truths of God’s revelation?” But after sincerely contemplating the words of the Holy Father, I heard Christ, calling me to critically examine my own conscience and ask myself how have I failed to be an authentic witness of Jesus Christ in my life.
To be a faithful disciple, Christ does not ask us to refrain from making judgments related to objective truths. He is not saying we are to be silent and tolerate sin and evil. In fact, we must stand up for the truth in charity. When Pope Francis calls us to apologize, I hear an echo of Christ summoning us to avoid the temptation to be quick to point out faults of others while minimizing or ignoring our own:
“First take the log out of your own eye and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye” Matthew 7:5
Hatred and evil seem to abound in the world today. However, how many Christians fail to live up to the call to imitate Christ daily in our lives? If every single Christian in this world was a steadfast witness for Christ, this world would be a different place. The way we begin to transform the world is to first look inward. In obedience to the Holy Father, here is a brief version of my apology to the people of the world and a call to all Catholics to imitate Christ in our lives.
An Apology For a Failure in Holiness
I apologize to anyone whom I have harmed emotionally, physically, psychologically or spiritually. Many times I have not fully lived up to the call to be an authentic witness of Jesus Christ in the world. My most common sinful tendencies are impatience, frustration with others, failure in compassion, selfishness and lack of charity. I have been selfish with my time, ignoring the lonely or those begging on the street. I need to provide assistance, if not materially at least by smiling and praying for them. I have not done enough to help the poor, orphaned, widowed and abused either through monetary donations or volunteering my time.
For all the people I have never met, including the unborn children who are murdered through abortion, the soldiers who risk their lives to protect me, the religious and political leaders whom I do not always agree with ideologically, I am sorry you are not more frequently in my prayers. To those in countries other than the United States of America, too often I fail to think about you and the struggles you face on a daily basis. I have failed to listen or show compassion to those who have reached out to me in their times of suffering, sorrow or despair. For the times I have ignored people, know that you have immense value for simply being human and you deserve better.
Failure in Evangelization
As a Christian, I have a God-given obligation of evangelizing but there are many people from my past with whom I never discussed Christ. Fortunately, I have experienced a deep conversion and now share my faith. However, now I have been called a bigot, a hypocrite, and intolerant. I have allowed the pain of these words to lead to anger and bitterness. I apologize if others have ever perceived my actions when evangelizing to be unloving or disrespectful.
Additionally, some feel those who proclaim the truths of the Christian faith do so with an air of superiority or with the intention of causing division. I apologize to anyone who has this impression, though we all must recognize truth itself can be divisive. Many times I have failed to understand the perspective of others on issues and so I have not responded with prudence and compassion.
Light of Christ
In the beginning, God our Father created all men, not because of need but because of love. God desires all men to spend eternity with Him in heaven. However, from the dawn of creation, human beings have chosen to sin and separate themselves from God. God has never stopped loving us, calling out to us, waiting for us to turn back to Him. Almost 2000 years ago, God completed His act of redemption through the person of Jesus Christ. As true God and true man, He freely offered Himself for each of us, enduring humiliation, torture and the pain of the cross. He showed us through His own actions the reality of authentic love so each one of us would love Him in return.
God now offers salvation to each person and awaits our response. This is the good news Christians have to share. Salvation ultimately refers to our presence in heaven where a person is united to God experiencing unending joy and unimaginable love. Heaven is not only for an elect group of people – it is possible for everyone. God loves us so much He refuses to coerce us. We are not His slaves. God wants us to spend eternity with Him but He allows us to choose whether or not we reciprocate. He offers us the means to be with Him but respects our free will. Heaven is a gift from God for those who love Him and damnation in hell is the result of the free choice to reject God.
To enter heaven, one needs to come to know Christ, who is Truth itself. Those who honestly seek truth will find God. Christians are instruments of His truth to the world. However, I apologize if I have shared the truth without charity.
I recognize as Christians we profess teachings from God which are challenging to us all. Some hold that it is impossible to do God’s will and that the call of perfect obedience is merely an unachievable ideal. On a human level, these people are correct. However, when Jesus died on the cross for us, He merited the gift of life for all. If we allow this grace to transform us, we will have faith, be obedient to God and ultimately enter heaven. The call to live an authentic Christian life can seem insurmountable but God makes this possible through His divine life abiding within us (2 Peter 1:4; 1 Corinthians 15:10; Galatians 2:20).
God’s Unconditional Love
There are many who do not know Christ. There are many who never discover the amazing goodness, beauty and truth of the Catholic faith and who are not aware of the transforming power of God’s grace. Some of this is due to a failure in evangelization and catechesis.
There is no sin in this earthly life too great for God’s forgiveness. God wants us to reject immorality, adultery, idolatry, pride, greed, lust, homosexual acts, fornication, and abortion. God calls us to love Him above all things and our neighbor as our self. God calls us to hold every single human person from the moment of conception to natural death as sacred because they are His. We are to hold the marital act as a sacred gift from God through which a man and woman, bound together in a covenant for life, are allowed to participate with God in the act of creation. By coming to know and hold steadfast to all the truths given to us by God, we are growing in our love for God Himself.
In charity, I cannot and will not apologize for desiring all men to experience the perfect life in heaven where one will be infinitely happy with unending joy, and so I will continue to try to profess the truth in charity.