“Jesus hears ya,” the flashing, digital billboard declared as I slowly drove past.
“You are welcome here.”
These are but a few of the pithy messages meant to catch the attention of motorists venturing down a major thoroughfare deep in the suburbs of Phoenix. It’s a bright light in the middle of a major American metropolis where messages antithetical to Christianity are loudly proclaimed via digital billboards and flags.
The study in contrasts represents one of the greatest gifts we have as Americans: the freedom to proclaim our message, whatever it may be. Yes, I know Facebook and other social media giants have clamped down on messaging not in accord with the politically correct version of reality. But what’s to stop churches and individuals from doing exactly what this congregation in the East Valley has done?
It seems to me that the billboard is in keeping with the words spoken by Christ and recorded in Scripture: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father (Matthew 5:14-16).”
If the world is loudly promoting sin and selfishness, why shouldn’t we be engagingly, creatively promoting hope in Christ? This plucky little church in the East Valley is doing so. Take that, world!
By investing its resources in establishing this 24/7 electronic messaging, the congregation is following the obligation entrusted to us by Jesus Christ to be that city on a mountain and to boldly proclaim the Gospel message from the rooftops.
Jesus tells the Apostles, “Go out into all the world and proclaim the gospel to every creature. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not will be condemned (Mark 16: 15-16).”
Down through the centuries, the Catholic Church has sent missionaries into every corner of the globe to do just that. Amazingly, this was done before modern means of transportation and communication. The fervent faith and deep love of thousands of priests and religious brought the saving message of Christ to all the world.
The clear instructions spoken by the Lord 2,000 years ago still apply today and they’re an invitation to you and me — not just priests and religious — to continue that work of evangelization. Today is a good day to ask ourselves if we are really doing that and how we can become better missionary disciples.
What would our Church look like if we had signs out front like the one I saw?
“Come home to the Catholic Church.”
“We want to share Jesus with you.”
“Spreading the love of Christ for 2,000 years.”
And so on. What if when visitors or newcomers showed up for Mass we caught their eyes and slid to the middle of the pew in a welcoming gesture? What if we all developed a simple, sincere and faith-filled message we could share with others?
“God cares about you and I do, too. How can I help?”
“I used to worry about that, too, but then I started entrusting all my anxieties to the Lord.”
“I’ll pray for you.”
There’s a lot of not-so-good messaging going on out there in the world right now and the impact is devastating. The 29 percent increase in drug overdose deaths in 2020 and the staggering number of suicides tell us that our world is thirsting for hope and love and truth.
As followers of Christ, we’ve got all that and more. Let’s start sharing it.