Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Fr. Timothy Murphy--Living the Newness of Priesthood

A few years ago when I was transferred, I moved into a rectory in Cambridge, MA. At the same time, a newly retired priest also moved into the rectory.  I had known Fr. Tim Murphy since my seminary days, and my fondness for him and my respect for him grew the more I got to know him. When we were neighboring pastors, I would occasionally go to him for confession.  

The rectory in Cambridge has a great porch, and Fr. Murphy would often be found sitting there, pipe in hand, smoking and reading a book. I could sit and talk to Tim for hours. And clearly, Tim enjoyed being listened to! He was a great story teller and had a boyish laugh when he got going. His whole body would shake when he'd laugh. He loved to tell stories about his seminary days, about various "characters" in the Boston presbyterate, and about his travels. A particular favorite was the story of him being held by the police while in Rome.

In Italy, public transportation is kind of on the honor system. You are supposed to buy a ticket and then, when you get on the bus, validate the ticket in this machine.  Tim had forgotten to validate his ticket. Tim loved to tell the story. "Well, these three people get on the bus and the doors close. And then, one of them pulls this hat out from under his jacket and places it on his head. It was a raid. You could tell that he was VERY proud of this uniform hat. They began inspecting tickets. When they got to me, I just kept holding up my hands saying, 'I don't speak Italian.' Then, this know-it-all next to me starts to translate everything.  The last thing I wanted him to do is translate for me.  With that, they took me off the bus, and marched me to the police station where I was held for sneaking on the bus." Tim would say, "The whole way down the street, they kept their hands on their guns like I was a dangerous criminal."

More than his funny stories, what I will most remember about Tim is that he really loved being a priest. When he turned 75, he did not want to stop working. He wanted to keep going. In fact, he kept helping out wherever and whenever he could. And, Tim always wanted to be a better priest. When you spoke with Tim, you felt like he was still discovering what it means to be a priest. Tim was still surprised by Christ. The Gospel was still moving and surprising to him. The priesthood was still an adventure to him. 

This morning, Fr. Timothy J. Murphy, in the words of the Roman Martyrology, "fell asleep in the Lord." As one friend put it, "It's sad for us, but we have to be happy for him." Tim spent his life being surprised by the miracle of Faith and the joy of priesthood. I imagine that such awe before the Mystery was a great preparation for the Glory of Heaven. There, the saints must live in an eternal state of joyful surprise at the goodness of the Lord.

This evening, when I offered Mass at the BU Catholic Center, I prayed that the Lord might raise up for the Church in Boston more vocations to the priesthood. Fr. Tim Murphy lived a long and happy life as a priest. He joyfully preached the Word and administered the Sacraments to the flock. And, it never grew boring or routine for him. Priesthood is a great life. We live perpetually in that moment when Christ said, "Come, follow me." Priesthood is always new.

May the Lord grant to Fr. Timothy Murphy an eternity of youthful and joyful awe.

Monday, October 23, 2017

What Does the Face of Christ Look Like? The BU Catholic Center

Pretty much everything I read on the internet--be it in the news or on social media--about the Catholic Church doesn't leave me feeling particularly joyful, uplifted, or holier. If you want to create social-media followers for yourself, an easy way to do it is to be bitter, cynical, and uncharitable. Problem is, that type of stuff doesn't create followers of Jesus. It creates ideologues.  And, I admit that at times it is difficult to refrain from jumping into the fray.  

This blogpost is just a reminder that following Jesus is actually joyful, and that the Catholic Church is not primarily about the people who get the most press, the most "likes," or the most "comments." 

When we see the Catholic Church, we ought to see the Face of Christ. I'm blessed to spend my time surrounded by the Face of Christ.  Below is a video one of our students put together of the BU Catholic Center Fall Retreat. It is just a bunch of university students praying, hanging out, and goofing off (a lot of goofing off). Some of my readers support the BU Catholic Center, so I thought they might also enjoy seeing how their generosity is allowing the beautiful Face of Christ to be seen.

There's a lot of good things going on in the Church. We just don't see much evidence of it online. So, I hope you enjoy watching some or all of this video.  The Lord is doing great things in and through His Body, the Church. 

Click on the link below. (And by the way, if some people look kind of goofy in some of the photos that is for one of two reasons. Either they were trying to look goofy . . . or they can't help the fact that they are goofy).

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Confessing in an Age of Accusation

"I confess." Although we are accustomed to saying those words at the beginning of every Mass, they are actually rather startling.  I think of all the great detective stories when, clearly outsmarted by the sleuth detective, the suspect is cornered into confessing. "I did it! Yes, yes, it was me!"  Catholicism, on the other hand, teaches one to confess quite easily and willingly. It is an integral part of Catholic life.

Last Saturday evening, I was on retreat with a large group of college students. For a couple of hours, four other priests and I heard confessions. There is something so refreshing about hearing people confessing their own sins and faults. There is a great purity about it. A Catholic enters the confessional not to accuse others, but to accuse himself or herself. At the beginning of Mass, a Catholic doesn't say, "We confess." He says, "I confess." 

"Through my fault." 
Whose fault? 
"Through my fault." 
Are you sure? Maybe it is someone else's fault.  Are you certain that you are to blame?
 "Through my most grievous fault!"

Social media (and the media in general) has become an outlet for accusing others about everything. If somebody gets shot with a gun, then the people to blame are the people who voted for the politician who supported gun rights. If the person was shot by an immigrant who is in the country illegally, then the people to blame are those who voted for a politician who supports the Dream Act. The list goes on and on. We spend a lot of time accusing others about everything!

Even within the Church, social media has become the place of accusation. "He is a heretic!" "She is judgmental!" "They are pharisees!" "They aren't real Catholics!" Catholics--and others--bait one another on social media and then feign shock when the inevitable counter-attack follows.

We live in the Age of Accusation, but not in the Age of Confession. I wonder if we were all more attentive to our own faults by regularly examining our consciences and confessing our sins, if we would be more hesitant to accuse others on social media and in the media in general? Perhaps the current obsession with blaming others is the result of our inability or unwillingness to examine ourselves and accuse ourselves before God?

Is engaging in constant online accusations a sign of spiritual bankruptcy? Are the Twitter wars of accusations an angry substitute for humble prayer before God? Are people more concerned about entertaining their "followers" than they are about following the Lord? The Lord himself warned that we should remove the plank from our own eye before attempting to remove the splinter from our brother's eye. And yet, there are a lot more Catholics on Twitter than there are in the line for Confession. There are significantly more accusations being lobbed against others on social media than there are self-accusations happening in the confessionals of our churches.

The climate in which we live today is all about pointing the finger and saying, "Through his fault, through her fault, through their most grievous fault." The Catholic way is to say, "Through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault." This humble admission opens our hearts up to receive God's life changing grace. In humbly and honestly accusing ourselves, we create a space in the world for Christ's grace to heal, forgive, and renew. And the world needs that kind of space more than it needs our accusations.

Accusing others likely only deepens divisions and hardens hearts. On the other hand, accusing ourselves humbly before God heals divisions and changes our own heart. And, our own hearts all need changing.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

JP2 Continues to Draw the Young To Christ

The BU Undergrad Retreat Fall 2017
God is so very good!

This past weekend, the BU Catholic Center undergrads headed off on our Fall Retreat. It. Was. Beautiful.

The students themselves develop the theme of the retreat and organize all of its many aspects.  This year, they chose the passage, "You are the light of the Word," as the theme.  The title of the retreat was, "Illuminate." The speaker for the retreat was a relatively newly ordained priest named Fr. Sinisa.  

One of the great joys in my life as a priest is connecting people. I love introducing great people to one another. This retreat was another such example. Fr. Sinisa was an immediate hit with our community. One person asked me, "How come we haven't had him before?"  He preached beautifully and witnessed to the joy of the Christian life. The Holy Spirit was at work on our retreat.

As is the case on every retreat I've been on over the past nine semesters at BU, I love the witness talks. It is such a moving and incredible joy to hear young people testify to how the Lord is working in their lives. After our first witness talk this weekend, I thought, "Well, we can call the bus now and all go home. God has already accomplished more here than anything else we might come up with."  But, the Holy Spirit continued to work among us.

Not all of the kids on our retreat were Catholic. Some came because they were attracted to the Catholic Faith. Some came because they experienced true and joyful friendship among our community. 

The students chose St. John Paul II as the retreat patron saint. As I prepared to speak about JP2 to the community, something really struck me. As I prayed, I realized that he is the man who has had the greatest impact upon my life. I know it seems strange, but when I pray the Scriptures, I read them in the voice of John Paul II. He became the voice of Christ to me. When I pray, I hear John Paul II saying, "Do not be afraid. Come follow me. Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you have no life in you. I have come so that you might have life and have it more abundantly."  This is what it means to let our light shine. It is to allow Christ to live in us, to shine through us, to speak through us. What I loved about John Paul II is that he did not sugarcoat the Gospel for me. He told me that the Gospel was demanding. This is precisely what young people today love about him. The love that he extends to them--in the name of Christ--the call, not to mediocrity, but to greatness.

I told the students that I was convinced that the reason they were even on the retreat was because of St. John Paul II. His life and ministry inspired so many young people. He awakened in young people a burning desire to become disciples of Jesus Christ. If today you find young people adoring Jesus in the Eucharist and going to confession, or if you find young people on fire for sharing the Gospel, chances are, you can draw a line from them to St. John Paul II. Wherever there is life today in the Church in America, it is because of John Paul's influence.

Four other priests showed up on Saturday night and heard confessions while our students spent time adoring the Eucharist. The students took turns through the course of the night--an hour each--worshipping the Blessed Sacrament. 

After I came back from retreat, I still had to offer the 6pm Mass at BU. I was exhausted, but it is so edifying to show up for Mass and worship with so many great young people who are striving to grow in the Catholic life. Every time I celebrate Mass at BU, I am grateful for the parishes that formed these young men and women. And even though I was dying to get home, after Mass, I heard the words that kind of give priesthood its meaning: "Father, do you have a minute?"

When I came home to my rectory, I ran into one of the priests with whom I live. He's been a priest thirty-five years longer than I have been. We ate dinner together and had some wine. Then the pastor of the parish returned home. He also had been on a retreat. He joined us and we talked about life and had a lot of laughs.

And now, I still need to say my prayers and pray the Rosary, so I should get to sleep.  The good news for me though is that I am taking the morning off!  But, I am filled with such joy and gratitude. This weekend, I witnessed so many beautiful examples of the Catholic life. People sharing their faith, alumni offering their assistance to make the retreat a success, a young priest inspiring young college students, students who are not Catholic investigating the Faith, students loving one another with a deep and profound love, and a profoundly sincere and joyful group of young people who hear the call of the Lord.

One of the great joys I experience as a priest is the opportunities I have to witness amazing things. I feel really privileged because my priesthood has been lived in a continuous state of awe at all the good things the Lord is doing. Boasting about those things can sometimes feel like I'm saying, "I did these things." But quite honestly, that would be a real disappointment to me. What amazes me, and what fills me with such enormous joy, is that the Lord blesses me with these things. These are totally His gifts. I inherited so much of this from the campus ministers and priests who preceded me here. I am not smart enough to create these things, and I am definitely not holy enough to create these things. I'd say that my contribution to the whole thing is that I have the gift to recognize how amazing it is and how unworthy I am to be part of it. It would be a real letdown if the Newman Center at Boston University were simply something we accomplished. Instead, what is so awesome is that we the result of what Jesus Christ is doing in our midst.

The BU Catholic Center is something worth boasting about. By that, I mean it is something that so many people can boast about. The alumni who shaped this community one year at a time. The parish priests who sent these students to us, so well-formed. The people who support us financially because they believe in our mission. The priests who come to help us with confessions. The Cardinal who supports us and our mission. The Vocation Office who supports us and assists us. The seminary who sends seminarians to help us. The FOCUS Missionaries. Fran, our Office Manager. The long line of interns who have volunteered over the years to our community. The students themselves who take so seriously the call of Christ to share the Gospel with others....

When I got home tonight, I received an email from a former parishioner of mine. She shared with me her own witness of the good things that the Lord is doing. She also told me how happy she was that I am blogging more often about the things that are happening in my life. Her words reminded me that we are all in this thing together. Sharing the Gospel--sharing what Christ is doing in our midst--is so awesome.

I'm the Newman Center Chaplain at BU. I want to tell you something. What John Paul II started . . . it's still happening, and I have the sense that it's only just begun.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Wounded Souls, Field Hospitals, and Mine Fields

In a few weeks, I have to go for my annual physical. Last year, it was such a great appointment because I had followed the doctor's orders and had done amazingly well both in regards to fitness and diet. Alas, the past few months have not been so disciplined, so I know that an uncomfortable lecture awaits me. And, worse than that, simply acknowledging his rightness about these matters will not be sufficient. No, he won't let me off that easily. For every excuse that I come up with, he will propose a solution. And then he will ask specific questions on how I plan to rectify the situation. I'm not looking forward to it at all. 

Wouldn't it be better if the doctor would just affirm me as I am? Wouldn't it be better if instead of pressuring me to live in a particular way, he just let me do what I wanted? I mean really, who is he to judge me? Who is he to tell me what I should and shouldn't do? If he really cared about me, he'd not insist upon imposing rules on me. If he continues down this path, he risks pushing me away, doesn't he?

Why should I even bother going if all the doctor is going to do is tell me that I need to change certain things? I go back because I know that there is a truth that lies outside of myself. I go back because I know that the doctor actually cares about me. I go back because I know that deep down, the doctor prefers to encourage me in my positive behaviors than he does in challenging me about my lack of exercise. But, he cares enough about me to challenge me. When I call him, he always returns my calls. When I need something, he always responds. When he corrects me about something, I see it in terms of my total health. I don't see it as a personal attack.

Our Holy Father, Pope Francis is fond of referring to the Church as a field hospital. I've always liked the imagery of the priest as a physician of souls, and so the image of the Church as a hospital is appealing to me. These days, however, it feels as though our field hospital is located in the middle of a mine field and is under heavy shelling!

I remember once hearing a friend of mine who is a doctor saying that it is important when treating a patient to remember that you are treating a person and not just an illness. In other words, you don't reduce the person to a particular affliction.  That disgusting wound is not what you are treating. You are treating a person who happens to have that disgusting wound. For me, it's a great reminder about the spiritual life.

Recently, I've watched--and participated--in some debates surrounding moral issues and the Catholic Church. It seems like oftentimes these debates are fixated on the wounds rather than on the patients. And, to be clear, we are all patients in one way or another. There seems to be, at least, three unsatisfactory approaches taking place: Focusing solely on the wound, conflating the wound and the wounded, and ignoring the wound. 

Some people want to focus entirely on fixing the wound. They speak about the wound to the exclusion of remembering that there is actually a patient attached to that wound. They are experts on the wound, but they seem to have no regard for the wounded. This is the doctor with no bed-side manner. The wound to him is like a challenge. If he can just fix this particular wound, he'd be done with you. 

Another issue is the conflation of the wound and the wounded. This is where we attach "being" to the wound. "I am this wound." If the physician calls attention to the wound, then he is attacking me personally and assaulting my dignity. "I have been this way for a long time. I've always done this." The wound and the person are seen as one and the same. They are allies. An attack on one is an attack on both. This approach ultimately denies that there is any wound at all and to suggest otherwise is portrayed an act of hatred. 

Lastly, there is the approach of ignoring the wound. This approach suggests that since the person is wounded but doesn't want to discuss it, it's better to just act as though the wound doesn't exist. Let's avoid that awkward conversation because . . . well, it's awkward. 

If the Church is, in fact, a hospital, its hospital staff needs to be experts in treating persons and wounds. It means learning how to get the person to keep coming back even though the physician might say, "You haven't been exercising and you need to do so." But, to do that, the Church also has to be willing to be rejected. There are things that are good for our spiritual health and there are things that are bad for our spiritual health. 

The fact is, sometimes people are going to smoke even though the Surgeon General insists that smoking causes health problems. Similarly, even though the Church is going to teach that we must worship God every Sunday at Mass, forgive those who have harmed us, and support the works of the Church, some people won't. Even though the Church is going to teach that marriage is permanent, that sexual activity is only moral between a man and a woman united in matrimony, that cheating in business dealings is immoral, and that welcoming the stranger and feeding the hungry are obligations, some people will ignore these things.  It may make us squirm. It may make us uncomfortable. It may make us indignant. But, that doesn't mean the Church shouldn't teach them. If she is truly a hospital, then she needs to be comfortable in identifying spiritual health risks and epidemics.

I suppose my physician takes a risk every time I show up and he gives me the lecture. He risks on my freedom. He risks that I am going to keep returning to his office because I trust that he sincerely cares for my well-being. He risks that when he speaks to me, I know that he sees more than just my cholesterol levels. He sees a person.

Where does all of this leave the spiritual hospital staff (which is all of us)? Ignoring the wound, seriously endangers the patient. Focusing exclusively on the wound is an injustice to the person. That leaves us with loving the patient and addressing the wound as best we can under the present conditions. We shouldn't kill the patient in our attempt to heal the wound. And at the same time, we shouldn't kill the patient by ignoring the wound. 

There is a lot of pressure these days placed on Catholics to be silent about the moral life. Some say, "Don't talk about sin because it turns people away." This approach takes far too lightly the deadly nature of sin. Then, some angrily respond by talking only about sin.  They appear obsessed with shaming people about their sins.

But then, there is the Catholic way. The Catholic way is with tranquil and joyful confidence to affirm that we are all wounded and in need of Jesus, the Divine Physician. And Jesus practices medicine at the Hospital of the Catholic Church.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

The Undeniable Attraction of Pure Catholic Life

Newly Baptized and Received into the Church This Past Easter
Everyone is fighting. Citizens, athletes, members of the Church. If you frequent social media, everybody is arguing about . . . everything    . . . and accusing their opponents of the same things for which they themselves are guilty. 

Here's what I'd like to offer:

Whenever we have a visitor at daily Mass at the BU Catholic Center, I like to watch their surprised reaction when, after I impart the final blessing, all of the students kneel down and spend time in thanksgiving. Nobody has ever cajoled them into doing that.  It's something that's just become natural to them. Some stay for a few minutes and some stay for twenty. It's beautiful to witness. The quiet, stillness, and devotion of those moments is like an oasis.

Today before Mass, I sat on a stone bench outside of the University Chapel because someone asked me to hear his confession. (For Sunday Mass we use the interdenominational chapel, so there is no confessional). As soon as one person noticed that I was hearing a confession, a line of students formed.  It's kind of beautiful to sit there as people pass by. Whether they believe in the power of the sacraments or not, whether they believe in God or not, these passers by cannot but help be struck by the scene.

After every Sunday Mass, I am always impressed by how the students wait in a long line to shake hands with me and to say hello. How did they become so polite, friendly, and mature?  Beautiful.

There is a small group of students who come to the Catholic Center every Sunday evening and make sandwiches for the homeless. Then they go out to the streets and deliver them. It's not a soup kitchen. They don't feed thousands.  They feed a few. 

When you're a preacher, you know whether or not people are paying attention! I'm always amazed and grateful that the students are so attentive during Mass. Actually, in this present culture, I'm amazed that they are at Mass at all. I'm even impressed that a lot of them dress up each week for Mass. 

The students at the BU Catholic Center love each other. And, they reach out to others--not to make their numbers bigger, but to welcome others into the joy of the Catholic life. 

Today after Mass, a student asked me to bless a crucifix that he bought for his room for when he prays. Let that sink in. In today's day and age, there is a graduate student at a very secular university who went out to buy a crucifix and had a priest bless it because he wants to pray in his room.

They are simple things, but there is a purity about them. They do not solve all of the fighting and anger that surrounds us, but they remind me of what is true, and good, and beautiful. These encounters and moments, in their simplicity and purity are REAL.

What saves me are these moments. So, I thought by sharing them, that they might awaken within you a deeper gratitude and hope and a desire to live like this, and not be swept into the constant current of anger and noise.

Amid all of the noise of the world, on a bench on a college campus, students bless themselves and say, "Bless me Father, for I have sinned." This quiet, humble, and pure prayer is far greater than everything that has been or ever will be posted on Facebook or Twitter.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Evangelization: There Is A Clear Choice

St. Paul wrote in his First Letter to the Corinthians, "But we preach Christ Jesus, and Him crucified; a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles." One would think that if Paul were trying to win people over, he might change up the message a bit. How about re-brand the product in order to increase market share? Shouldn't his pastoral and missionary plan be more consumer friendly? And, let's not forget that there were lots of issues going on in the communities to whom Paul was writing and preaching.  There were issues of sexual immorality, factions, lack of attention to the poor, and community members jockeying for position. If St. Paul was trying to build up the parish collection and increase numbers for the parish census, perhaps he should have found a more attractive message than saying everything depended upon one, crucified man. But St. Paul was not trying to convince people to attend his parish. He was trying to save them. He was not afraid to place before them a clear choice.

Two thousand years after St. Paul preached, another saintly apostle arrived on the scene. Pope John Paul II preached all over the world and, in a remarkable way, he powerfully touched the hearts of young people. John Paul's preaching moved the hearts of young people because he trusted Christ and he trusted the desire of young people to be challenged to greatness. He knew that some would reject the Gospel, for thus has it ever been so. He also knew, however, that some would hear this Word and leave everything to follow Christ. John Paul was not afraid to tell the world that there was a choice to be made. There was a choice between life and death. There was a choice between selfishness and true love. There was a choice between light and darkness. There was a choice between Christ and the world. He held out this choice to all. He made it clear that the choice for Christ and His way of life was the most important decision a human being could make. John Paul II was unafraid to announce that this choice had consequences.

To choose Christ--to take up the Cross and follow Him--means that your life will never be the same. It means laying down your life. It means saying no to many things. It means dying to self. Some, like the Rich Young Man in the Gospel, will walk away from this call. And this is truly a source of sadness. For those, however, who accept this call, they become new creations. No matter how many times they may fall along the way, those who follow discover that only in Christ is the true way to happiness.  He makes all things new and leads man to the Father.

It is difficult to put my finger on it, but it feels as though so many current "evangelization" efforts are falling flat because they do not make any definite proposal. They do not offer a clear choice. Instead, it sounds like, "We are trying to keep our parish open and need you to come. Keep doing whatever it is you happen to be doing, but do it here at our parish." This is a long way from "Take up your Cross and follow me." Our efforts often sound more like membership drives than they do the proclamation of the Gospel. Yes, parishes need to be places where people feel welcomed, but they also need to be places where the clear and unambiguous proposal of the Gospel is proclaimed. Evangelization has to be about Jesus Christ more than it is about our parish. Of course parishes and Church institutions should be welcoming, engaging, and friendly. And, of course, we should always be working on those things. But, parishes and other Church communities have to be more than just social clubs. They have to stand as a constant proposal and invitation to people to follow Christ.

The same is true about priestly vocations.  "Do you like to work with people and have a sense of adventure?" is not a helpful vocations promotion. The way to promote healthy vocations is to say, "Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Are you willing to lay down your future and your life in order to be his priest?" Some will say no. Others will say yes. The choice, however, is clear.

When it comes to the moral life, ambiguity does not make the Catholic Church more attractive. In fact, it makes it far less attractive. It is far better to be a Church that proclaims the full truth of the Gospel, than to be a church that appears to hide its moral teachings in the hopes of attracting more members. The Catholic Church is at its best when it clearly teaches the Truth. Part of that truth is that we all are weak and we all stumble and fall. We all struggle. Part of that truth is that when we fall, the Lord is ready to pick us up and put us back on the right path. But, part of that truth is that there is, in fact, a right path. There are many wrong paths. There is only one right path. That path is Christ and Him crucified.

In the Garden of Eden, the serpent attempted to sow ambiguity in the relationship between God and man. "Did God really say this?" Where before there was utter clarity, "You shall not eat of that tree or you will surely die," now there is ambiguity. "Did he really say . . . ?" The serpent attempts to convince man that God's clarity is somehow unloving and untrustworthy. God placed before man a clear command. The serpent introduced ambiguity.

What made John Paul II such a great evangelist is that he trusted Christ and he trusted the human heart. Proposing to others the Truth of the Gospel in a clear and unambiguous way is an act of love. And people--especially young people--respond to this clarity. We can know the Truth because the Truth has revealed Himself. The Truth calls us to greatness. The Truth is the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ loves each human person and calls each person to eternal happiness. The path to happiness, however, demands a response. It requires a clear "yes," or "no." It requires the Cross.

Whenever I heard John Paul II preach, I knew two things. Firstly, I knew that Jesus Christ loved me and secondly, I knew that Jesus Christ--and Him crucified--was the path to eternal life. Both things were crystal clear.

Ambiguity is a fog that leads people astray. What we need in our evangelization efforts is to announce Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.