Ignorance is no excuse! Seems unfair; like harsh! Because to be ignorant often brings unfortunate consequences to an unsuspecting or innocent person.
You may recall the church is asking for our focus on The Seven Spiritual Works of Mercy on particular Sundays thru out this “Year of Mercy”. This Sunday’s message is to “instruct the ignorant”.
Is anyone here ignorant of Jesus Christ? We’re not ignorant of Christ! But do we strive to know Christ better day in and day out? Do we work at it…to stay informed? Do we just assume too that everyone out there knows Christ?
If there’s one thing I DO KNOW…the more I come to know Christ, the more I know I don’t know him.
Well anyways, “imagine if you will” …this lesson on ignorance….and if it makes some of you feel better, I’ll be the ignorant character in the scenario.
It goes like this; now other than being baptized…Mark’s relationship with Christ was almost non-existent. Frankly, he wasn’t raised to exercise a faith…so his understanding of the Christian values was minimal…he was not a “bad person”…he was ignorant.
And he found himself face to face before the Father and the Son. Things go downhill from there, as Jesus says; “Do I know you?” …and they begin to recount for him all that he had done to OFFEND them, as well as all that he had failed to do FOR them.”
In the end, even in the face of unimaginable compassion and love Jesus says “Mark, were you ignorant? I’m so sorry, this hurts us more than it does you, but we have to consider now whether you’re fit to remain here in heaven. Do you have something to say for yourself?
And Mark simply said; I didn’t know…I never really understood…I didn’t know it really mattered that much…I didn’t get it! NO ONE TOLD ME!!
As Mark left and went outside heaven to await his fate…there in that long line he recognized his neighbor…he saw his sister, he saw the guy he rode to work with…and there was his best friend. He came to them and he said; “Do you guys know the requirements for staying? “Well of course”. Wait, you mean to tell me you knew this all along and never told me? Why?”
That scenario…while we know is fictional…we also know, is a very real-life possibility. The question remains; who’s really to blame for Mark’s ignorance? And further…those that knew better but never informed him…what can we suppose that Jesus would ask them…what is their fate?
Today’s readings and the Gospel suggest an answer for us. They tell us how this works…for us who call ourselves Christians. These passages manifest what it’s like to be bold for Christ…when you refuse to be silent, for the sake of others.
St. Paul makes no bones about it; “We must obey God rather than men…We are WITNESSES of these things.” So now for the high priest and his officers …frankly, ignorance is no excuse is it? Paul and the disciples WITNESSED Christ to them.
Then we have John’s beautiful witness…his vision, so out of this world you would think one might hesitate to share it in fear his piers would think him out of his mind! Thank God he was bold; Praise God for his obedience…by HIS WITNESS, we get a glance at what heaven is…what’s required and the consequences for being unfaithful. No one can say they weren’t told can they?
In fact it’s from his eye witness account in today’s Gospel that we hear of Christ’s personal choice for the role of leadership in the mission to grow the Christian Faith. He describes that significant dialogue between Jesus and Peter. Three times “do you love me”, …and by this significant three …our Lord gives Peter the opportunity to confess the shame of three times he had denied Christ earlier, right?.
So by this reconciliation, this “profession of love” for his savior, Peter is made whole and “ordained” in a sense, to be the official voice and lead witness of Christ’s church. Peter “the rock” …who himself was once ignorant until Andrew literally brought Christ to him.
Peter’s very character challenges our conviction. Peter who WITNESSED his love for Jesus by the zeal of his actions (example of this in today’s Gospel as he plunges into the water seemingly with no good reason other than to reach Christ as quickly as possible) as much as his words.
Take special notice of Jesus’ significant command to feed the “lambs”, i.e. “the young in faith”, those not yet evangelized or encourage…“the ignorant”.
Peter follows Christ’s lead and command to the letter. He writes: “As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct.”
In other words, for Peter AND US, to be Holy…as God is holy, is to be faithful, informed, and to enlighten others for the sake of their salvation. So frankly, I would suggest that if we don’t feel holy in this sense…we must ask our self why; because for all of us here; ignorance indeed is no excuse.
Let’s refuse to be silent…let us be bold, let’s ask ourselves… who is the lamb I might feed?