November 2013 Catholic by Grace Column
We are called to witness. Every baptized Catholic must share the Gospel message with others. Yes, even those who are afraid of public speaking are called to bear witness to the joy of living a life for Christ.
Before you dismiss the Great Commission, before you tell yourself that the mandate to give witness to the faith is only for those who like to stand up in public and hold a microphone, you need to know something.
We are all afraid of public speaking.
Some mornings, I am a lector at daily Mass. As I step up to the ambo, I feel the fear once again. It always comes. It has a voice. It tells me that I am going to lose my place or trip or get a frog in my throat that won’t go away or have a clothing malfunction. I’ll sit down in a few minutes and realize that the tag is sticking out of my shirt or I forgot to zip up my pants or my shirt is tucked in on one side and not the other or…
You get the idea.
I am afraid.
Every time I get up to speak, I bow before the altar, and I give it all to Jesus. My weakness. My horrible insecurities. My mind games.
I hesitated to admit that I have these fears, but then I changed my mind. Here’s why:
If there is any chance that you have exempted yourself from sharing the Good News because you don’t feel comfortable speaking up in a crowd or talking about the faith with others, then you need to know that you are exactly like the ones who do it. The only difference is that you don’t do it, and they do.
The fear is exactly the same. It doesn’t mean you have to be a lector. It does mean that you have to be a public witness. The Church is full of wall flowers. Too many of us find a comfortable corner, and that’s where we sit.
St. Paul was no wall flower. His motto was: “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:16). Wait, you say. He was an apostle. That message is for the clergy, not for regular people like me.
In the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi Pope Paul VI clearly states that it is “the whole Church that receives the mission to evangelize, and the work of each individual member is important for the whole. . .” (7) He continues: “Evangelizing is in fact the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity. She exists in order to evangelize . . . (14)
The Synod of Bishops underscores the words of Pope Paul VI when they assert: “Loving one’s faith implies bearing witness to it, bringing it to others and allowing others to participate in it. The lack of missionary zeal is a lack of zeal for the faith.” (XIII Ordinary General Assembly, The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith 10).
If you love the faith you have received, you must bear witness to it.
So let your knees wobble. Let your words get all jumbled up. Fumble for your glasses. Trip on the first step. But offer all of it to the Lamb Who Was Slain. This is where grace shows up. This is where conversion begins. It is where conversion has always begun—through the word of one who is willing to open his mouth and proclaim the Good News to anyone who will listen.
Do it for love of Christ; do it for love of Mother Church. After all, Perfect love casts out fear (I John 4:18).