We must all wrestle with a trinity of realities.
We are all called to evangelization. We are all sinners. Christ died in order to offer salvation to everyone.
Furthermore, we must wrestle with two overtly apparent realities. God’s grace works through our nature, not destroying it, but strengthening it, through our weak, and inconsistent, submission to His Loving Will, and, despite our obstinate disobedience, through all things, to include our sufferings and failures, for our greater good.
For, as the saying goes, ‘God is good all the time.’
But we aren’t good all the time. And many outstanding Catholics have ‘pasts.’ So how can we (yes, we) evangelize to people who know that we are/were faulty, proud, loud, selfish, obnoxious, envious, rude, crude, and boorish?
We must bring the Truth to light just as the Good Thief did upon his cross.
He couldn’t point fingers since his hands were bound in just consequence for his thievery. Not that this stopped the other thief from accusing everyone and everything to include our Crucified Lord. So finger pointing is not part of the spiritual repertoire of the repentant ‘hypocrite.’ But repentance is! Overcoming hypocritical evangelization through the spirituality of the good thief, therefore, is less about the force of blame and more about the power of forgiveness.
The good thief became good in the Light of Christ.
Therefore, the reality of our ‘past’ may always dog us in the perception of others. But in the Light of the Crucified, and Risen, Christ, we can chip away at this perception, in full solidarity with the Lord’s Passion, precisely because changing others perceptions will always be a slow and arduous path. Being thieves who have become good in Christ doesn’t change temporal reality. It only changes who we really are inside.
Changes in perception will come, only, when we live the truth of our change day by day.
But the change is never a change from demon to angel. There is a danger in romanticizing our change, or what is known theologically as our sanctification. Personally, my change is ongoing, incomplete, and always a ‘wrestle with God.’ Though God has done wondrous things with my faith, and hope…while still wrestling to create in me a more charitable heart, I am still Tom.
Grace works through nature.
Therefore, Tom is the change. Still Tom. But a better, more compassionate, slightly less selfish Tom, with an ever present mixed bag of talents and weaknesses. i will never be an angel. I will always be a human.
But the good thief in us can steal heaven, despite our being a mixed bag, through constantly living, in a daily fashion, the repentance and conversion, always present and intimate, in placing our cross right next to Jesus.