”Being a disciple means being constantly ready to bring the love of Jesus to others, and this can happen unexpectedly and in any place: on the street, in a city square, during work, on a journey.”
Disclaimer (right off the bat): I know I am the one who set this Advent Reflection on “The Joy of the Gospel” in motion; and I know I was the one who assigned the paragraphs to each of the wonderful writers and evangelists who came forward to help; and, trust me, I KNOW it was all the work of the Holy Spirit. Then why am I sitting here right now astonished that this is the one section that wasn’t claimed, but left for me to write? The answer is simple and it is the same answer Blessed John Paul II gave us in 1998: “Whenever the Holy Spirit intervenes he leaves people astonished...”
I am astonished that I have been blessed with the task to write today’s reflection, because this is my heart! This is the heart of the message I travel the country proclaiming. We must evangelize from heart to heart! We must joyfully share the love we have for Christ with another. We must “draw others to Jesus by being a light that is so lovely, they cannot help but want to know the source of it.” (Madeliene L’engle)
To do that, to draw others to Christ, to share your love for the Lord, you must have a relationship with the person of Jesus Christ and you must have a relationship with the person sitting across from you. It’s the greatest of all commandments: Love the Lord your God and love your neighbor.
So how do you have a relationship with the Lord? Well, that was addressed in many previous reflections and will be addressed throughout the remaindered of these posts, because it is the ultimate goal, union with God! Therefore, let’s talk about how we can have a relationship with a friend, an acquaintance or a stranger —a relationship that opens us up to sharing Jesus with them from heart to heart. To me, this is the biggest lesson I have learned since the Lord decided to really put me to work in His vineyard these past ten years.
Much of my schooling in how to evangelize comes from spending tons of time 30,000 feet in the air sitting next to a “captive audience.” Ironically, I never set out to “evangelize” someone. I sincerely like to hear people’s stories, I like to know where they are in life and I love to share the joy I have in my heart for the work that I do... and I love sharing my love for the Lord!
Though the settings and scenarios may differ and the conversations vary greatly from person to person, a few key items remain consistent in my sharing of the Gospel message. I’m not saying I have the formula, for as Pope Francis tells us, “We should not think, however, that the Gospel message must always be communicated by fixed formulations learned by heart or by specific words which express an absolutely invariable content,” but perhaps my sharing with you can help you share Jesus with another this week. (Take note because this is your action item from today’s reflection —to actively share the JOY of the Gospel sometime this week. Tell someone about Jesus!)
- I always begin any conversation about the faith with, “Come Holy Spirit!” (I don't say this out loud, but I certainly pray it in my mind and in my heart.)
- I listen to where the person is on their journey. I listen to their hopes, their pains, their concerns for loved ones, their needs. (You’d be surprised how much people will share when buckled into a chair flying 30,000 feet above the earth! You’d also be surprised how much people will tell you in the line at the grocery store, or sitting at a baseball game, or waiting for a bus, if you are interested in them!)
- I share my story, my joy, my struggles, “my hopes, my concerns for loved ones and so many other heartfelt needs.” (128)
- And in sharing my joy, I naturally share the source of it. For me it’s a relationship of love I found with the Lord through studying Sacred Scripture, and I share how that relationship with the Lord has changed my life.
Each encounter is different. Sometimes I invite the person to pray with me, sometimes I assure them of my prayers for them, sometimes I share the beauty of the Scriptures, sometimes I give them a good resource that fits their need. Perhaps a website like: CatholicsComeHome.org; BibleStudyforCatholics.com; CatholicMom.com; IntegratedCatholicLife.org; CrossroadsInitiative.com; etc... or a book like My Life on the Rock; Rome Sweet Home; The Sound of His Voice; Catholicism Pure and Simple, Praying Scripture for a Change; Forgiveness: A Catholic Approach; Catechism of Hockey, etc... or a DVD or CD such as Extreme Mercy; From Mormon Missionary to Catholic Church; or From Love, By Love, For Love, etc... or sometimes we become FaceBook friends, and sometimes we go our separate ways.
Though each encounter differs, each accomplishes the same task, a seed is planted. That is our job, to “respectfully and gently” plant the seed. (128) At another point on that person’s journey it may be the task of someone else to water that seed, someone else to fertilize, someone else to tend to the soil that surrounds it, someone else to put it in the light as it begins to bud. We don’t need to do it all! We can take comfort knowing that the Holy Spirit “enriches the entire evangelizing Church with different charisms” and that we have each been given charisms, gifts of the Holy Spirit, for the good of another, for the sake of building up the body of Christ. (130) (Romans 12: 4-8) We can also take great comfort and find great courage and creativity in our sharing of the Gospel message knowing it is the job of the Holy Spirit to covert souls. The Holy Spirit bridges the valley of our differences; “he alone can raise up diversity, plurality and multiplicity while at the same time bringing about unity” (131).
Now, knowing we are a missionary people called to share the Gospel daily, and knowing that sharing our love for the Lord need not be some highfalutin formal presentation, but rather a sharing that can take place in the middle of an everyday conversation between two people, and knowing it is the job of the Holy Spirit to convert the soul, let us joyfully and enthusiastically go forth and “be constantly ready to bring the love of Jesus to others, and this can happen unexpectedly and in any place: on the street, in a city square, during work, on a journey” (127).
Yep, this post was written by yours truly. Thanks for stopping by my blog and joining us as we slowly "sip" our way through "The Joy of the Gospel". On a side note, this is my favorite talk to give and I'm giving it tonight. So if you got a little moment, send a prayer to the Holy Spirit to be with us tonight!