We All Make Excuses (This Means You)
WE ALL MAKE EXCUSES -- BY PATRICK MADRID
IT'S A FACT. The single biggest impediment to sharing the Faith is the excuse we conjure up at the moment to avoid doing it. Let's say a situation arises where you can open your mouth and talk about Christ and the Catholic Church, but instead, the flashing red "excuse meter" goes off in the back of your mind. A bumbling string of reasons why you can't say or do anything floods out. Sound familiar? It's happened to me many times.
For a great example of some world-class excuse making and backpedaling, think of Moses. You recall the situation. Moses was the son of Hebrew slaves in Egypt, providentially adopted by Pharaoh's daughter. But he'd killed an Egyptian taskmaster for beating an Israelite slave. So Moses had fled Egypt to avoid punishment (see Exodus 2:1-22).
The fugitive found safety and comfort in the land of Midian. There, he climbed to the summit of Mount Horeb to meet God, who appeared to him in the form of a burning bush. Little did Moses know that God would ask him to have faith and jump off one really humongous high-dive: When the Lord saw him coming over to look at it more closely, God called out to him from the bush, "Moses! Moses! And he said, "Here am I." Then He said, "Do not come near; put off your shoes from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground." And He said, "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob." And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.
Then the Lord said, "I have seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters; I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey. . . . And now, behold, the cry of the people of Israel has come to me, and I have seen the oppression with which the Egyptians oppress them. Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring forth my people, the sons of Israel, out of Egypt" (Ex 3:4-10).
The Bible gives us the whole series of excuses Moses threw out as he did his best to wiggle out of God's call. Let's look at each of these in turn and see how they apply to you and me.
Excuse One: "Who am I that I should [be the one to] go to Pharaoh and lead the Israelites out of Egypt?" (Ex 3:11 NAB). Translation: "What? Lord, you've gotta be kidding! I just left that place, and none too soon. They want to kill me over there. There are better, more qualified people than me you could send. You've got the wrong guy." God overcame this excuse by telling Moses simply, "I will be with you" (v. 12). How often we forget that part of the process when we worry about stepping out in faith to talk to others about Christ. We're worried we'll get clobbered in the discussion and humiliated in the process. We forget that what God said to Moses is exactly what He says to us: "Don't worry. I'll be with you." Excuse Two: "When I go to the Israelites and say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' if they ask me, 'What is his name?' what am I to tell them?" (v. 13 NAB).
Translation: "What authority do I have to go do this? I'm just a common guy. Besides, they'll ask me to prove that You sent me. I don't have any answers for that."
Obviously, since his first excuse didn't work with God, Moses was looking for another way out. By saying he didn't know God's name, he was implying that he was under-qualified for the job because he didn't have a longstanding relationship with Him. How could God select a man who had so recently met Him for the first time?
We may fall back on this excuse when we're faced with the opportunity to talk about the Faith with someone who knows us well. We worry that the person will say, "Who are you to tell me about all this? You 'got religion,' and all of a sudden you think you're qualified to tell me about God? Get real." 1 Sometimes friends and family do say that to us, but it's still not sufficient reason to shrink from telling the truth. Notice God's response to this excuse: "This is what you shall tell the Israelites: 'I AM sent me to you . . . The Lord, the God of your fathers . . . has sent me to you'" (vv. 14-15 NAB).
That response from God is a cue for how to handle resistance from those close to us. In the case of a lapsed Christian, remind that person that you're not coming to him with a new message. You're reminding him of something he already was taught from his youth, something he knows, deep down in his heart, to be true.
Especially in the case of Catholics or other Christians who have drifted away from God through a divorce and invalid remarriage, through an abortion not repented of, through some other sinful choice, or simply through apathy, you can remind them of this truth, often with great spiritual impact. Point out that you're not coming to them as a "holier than thou" know-it-all. You're coming to them as a reminder of something they already know, from the God of their fathers.
This tack does two things. First, it avoids your having to be on the defensive and left trying to justify yourself. Second, it leaves the door open for you to emphasize (lovingly and with patience, of course) that the person you're trying to reach has departed from the truth he once held. Excuse Three: "'But, objected Moses, "suppose they will not believe me . . . ? For they may say, 'The Lord did not appear to you'" (4:1 NAB).
Translation: "What if I'm just ignored?" This is another understandable, but irrelevant, excuse. It really means we don't trust that God will help the person we're speaking to see the truth of the message.
Take Pharaoh, for example. He didn't accept Moses' message. Pharaoh at first spurned Moses and then ignored him. But as He promised, God intervened through dire, miraculous plagues, and changed Pharaoh's mind. He made the Egyptian king an offer he couldn't refuse: "Let my people go, or else." God's response to this excuse was more dramatic. He told Moses that he would work miracles through him as a means of convincing Pharaoh (see Ex 4:2-9). Now this isn't God's typical means in the ordinary course of events, but it's not unheard of for miraculous events to happen in the lives of ordinary people. We should always ask God for his grace to do whatever He wants done in a given situation. It may be that He'll select a miracle, even a hidden one, known only to the person you're evangelizing, but something that will manifest His power.
What will you say when God makes you an offer you can't or shoudn't refuse? More importantly, don't forget to point out public miracles God has already worked. For example, there are modern-day miracles still visible to the general public, such as many miraculous healings, the many incorrupt bodies of the saints,2 and the astounding example of the tilma of Blessed Juan Diego in Mexico City, on which the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe has been preserved, without fading or deterioration, for over five hundred years.3
There's also the well-documented miracle of the "dancing sun" at Fatima, Portugal, which took place on October 13, 1917, and was witnessed by over 70,000 people - a good number of whom weren't Catholic, including atheists. This event was not only photographed, but accurately reported in the secular press, including papers that were vehemently hostile to the Catholic Church and the idea of miracles.
In most instances, God doesn't use miracles to get people's attention. So ask God to choose whatever means will be most effective to open a person's eyes as well as his heart. And don't forget what Christ said: "Ask, and it will be given you" (Mt 7:7).
Excuse Four: "Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past, nor recently . . . but I am slow of speech and tongue" (4:10 NAB).
Translation: "I don't have the training to speak to people about you, God." Of all Moses' excuses, this was the weakest. I think God considered it weak, too, because we can almost hear the exasperation in His voice when He responded, "Who gives one man speech and makes another deaf and dumb? . . . Is it not I, the Lord? Go, then! It is I who will assist you in speaking and will teach you what you are to say" (4:11-12 NAB).
That's a familiar excuse. It's an easy way out to plead lack of speaking skills. We've heard it so many times: "I'd like to be able to talk about Christ and the Church with others, but I get tongue-tied and nervous." How many opportunities for grace pass us by because we use that excuse to keep our mouths shut! Excuse Four:"Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past, nor recently . . . but I am slow of speech and tongue" (4:10 NAB).
As God told Moses, eloquence is irrelevant. Sure, it helps - just look at effective and eloquent Catholic evangelists such as Archbishop Fulton Sheen. He captured the minds and hearts of countless people with his powerful explanations of the Catholic faith. But look also at Mother Teresa of Calcutta. She was saintly, yes, but she wasn't what people typically think of as eloquent. She had a simple, direct way of teaching and defending the Faith, but she didn't use fancy words or sophisticated speaker's rhetoric. No. She drew others to Christ in a humble, simple way. God can use Fulton Sheen, God can use Mother Teresa, and God can use you. Eloquence in itself is a non-issue for God. Just take encouragement from what he told Moses: "I'll help you in speaking and teach you what to say."
Excuse Five: "[Moses] insisted, 'If you please, Lord, send someone else!'" (v. 13 NAB).
Translation: "I'm lazy and afraid and unsure of myself. I'm not the right person for this job. And when you get right down to it, God, I really don't want to go on this mission for you."
By now Moses had run out of excuses, so he fell back on the last dodge he could come up with: "I don't want to." God's reaction was predictable. "Then the Lord became angry with Moses" (4:14 NAB). Don't do what Moses did. Don't make excuses to avoid explaining, defending, and sharing the Catholic Faith when opportunities arise. God has marked out from all eternity missions He has for you and no one else.
Notice one last important thing about the exchange between God and Moses. When Moses had run out of excuses and simply asked God to send someone else, God promised to provide Moses' brother, Aaron, to be Moses' speaker, his mouthpiece. Aaron was an eloquent speaker.
Think about the implications of this response. Today, in your own life, you're surrounded by "Aarons" you can enlist to help you share and defend the Faith. They are the great books and tapes, videos, periodicals (like Envoy magazine!), television programs that abound, resources you can hand to a friend or coworker with confidence.
So if you're not comfortable speaking to others about Christ yet, ask God to give you the courage and willingness to do so. And in the meantime, while He's cultivating that grace of courage in your heart, you can use these book and tape "Aarons" to do the speaking for you! Each year, as I travel the country giving apologetics seminars at parishes and universities, I meet people who describe how they abandoned their former anti-Catholicism and became Catholic all because someone had started the divine chain-reaction of grace by handing them a good Catholic book or tape. Right here, right now, you can start some of those chain reactions of grace in the lives of your family and friends. The first step to making that happen? Don't make excuses.
1 I explain how to deal with these situations in my book, Search and Rescue: How to Bring Your Family and Friends Into - Or Back Into - the Catholic Church. Available from www.surprisedbytruth.com; 740-587-4881.
2 See Joan Carrol Cruz, The Incorruptibles (Rockford: TAN Books & Publishers, 1988). 3 See Warren H. Carrol, Our Lady of Guadalupe and the Conquest of Darkness (Front Royal: Christendom College Press, 1984).
www.surprisedbytruth.com OH, US
Patrick Madrid - Publisher, 740 587-2292
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