Most of us are doing a severe disservice to the faith. We’re keeping it locked up—enclosed within the walls of our personal lives, our homes, our church, basically everywhere it fails to be a “burden” on others, an embarrassment to ourselves, a big, fat, glaring “elephant in the room.”
Of course, many of you may be exceptions to this rule of presenting your faith only at convenience, and if so, please pray for the rest of us. Sharing the faith takes courage, conviction, “guts,” and a burning desire to be a saint and bring everyone else with you on the journey.
Blessed John Henry Newman titled one of his sermons: “Personal Influence, The Means of Propagating the Truth.” What a striking thought—all in simply the title. How are people supposed to encounter the Truth if we aren’t the ones bringing it to them?
Do you ever feel a little uneasy when the RCIA programs roll around every year? I do. Isn’t it my personal responsibility to help the RCIA program grow? Isn’t it my duty—and shouldn’t it be my pleasure—to guide those on the “streets,” those outside the walls of our beautiful Catholic Church, into the Body of Christ?
Rodney Stark, in his well-known work, The Rise of Christianity, made some quite intriguing observations about religious conversions. In studying a group of converts to a particular religious community, he discovered that conversions came as a direct result of the relationships formed between the converts and the current members of the religion; in other words, he concluded that interpersonal attachments could be found at the center of the conversion process. (Just to clarify, Stark is not Catholic, and I do not agree with all of the observations in his book, though findings like these should certainly give those of us concerned with evangelization some worthy food for thought!)
WE are the ones who Christ is counting on to spread the Gospel to those in our modern culture starving for meaning, hope, and God (whether or not they realize it is Him they are looking for). We are the ones who are supposed to build the Church, person to person—one soul at a time. We must never underestimate the power of personal witness. Are you witnessing through your actions and your words?
A few months ago, one of my sister’s friends came to her asking questions about the Catholic faith. She began to devote time to her friend, whenever he needed it, always lending a listening ear and a powerful guiding witness, introducing him to the wonderful aspects of the Catholic Church, while building a friendship that allowed him to look to her, trust her, and be open with her as he continued his search for truth. My sister’s friend recently joined the RCIA program, asking my sister to be his sponsor. In an email exchange, he told me that he is “falling in love with the Church more and more every day” and that he “treasures my sister’s friendship and support more than she realizes.” All he needed was hand, a friend who cared about him enough to share with him the ultimate source of happiness and peace. I imagine that God looks with sheer joy upon my sister, saying to her heart, “Thank you for building my Kingdom.”
Robert Louis Wilken, in The Spirit of Early Christian Thought, says, “The Word of God makes its way not by argument but as men and women bear witness to what has happened” (p. 6).
One of the professors in my graduate program was a street preacher in high school. Yes, you read that correctly. He was one of those rooftop proclaimers of the Gospel, standing on an upside-down milk crate in the center of a highly populated area with no fear. He had the audacity to take his faith to the streets—literally. Why? He wanted to propagate the faith through his own personal influence, because he knew the power of witness.
“…Grant to your servants to speak your word with all boldness” (Acts 4:29, emphasis added). We need to pray for courage in giving account for the hope that is in us. Not all of us are called to turn a box upside down and win converts on the paved sidewalks in our communities. But we are all called to be bringing people into the Church—more than we are currently doing. And we must take love as our weapon, for “only when wounded by love can one know the God of the Bible” (Wilken, p. 7).
Now, what if…you asked that person you struck up a conversation with in the coffee shop if he or she were interested in coming to Mass with you on Sunday? What if you asked that coworker you keep trying to muster up the courage to confront? What if you had that much-needed conversation about God and church with the friend who you know really needs faith right now? What if you had no fear? What if you allowed your love for Christ and His holy, magnificent, incomparable Church to conquer all your anxieties, insecurities, and wishy-washiness?
Well, you would be answering the call to the mission of the Church, a call that we are all supposed to be answering frequently and with fearless passion—a call to evangelize. “The Church must continue to be missionary. Indeed, missionary outreach is part of her very nature,” said Pope John Paul II. You would be helping to build the Body of Christ, to bring more souls to experience the immeasurable love and happiness that only comes from God, the source of all that is true, good, and beautiful.
In my favorite passage from St. Augustine’s Confessions, he cries, “Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you” (Book X, Chapter 27).
Take it to the streets and catch these souls in their search. Be the voice that breaks through the deafness.
“Christian truth is attractive and persuasive precisely because it responds to the profound needs of human existence, announcing convincingly that Christ is the Savior of all mankind. This is still valid today as it was in early Christianity during the first great missionary expansion of the Gospel.” -Pope Benedict XVI
Have the audacity to share the Truth without reservation—to gather God’s children back to Himself, to help expand the Gospel until it reaches every needy heart in every corner of the world.
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