Long time no blog, I know. It’s been a rough semester. I have plans for catching up, and one of these days, I will execute them. For now, I’m just going to jump right back in.
(N.B. I’m taking advantage of the <!--more--> feature of WordPress. You have to click the “keep reading” link to see the whole entry. And you thought I’d become more concise.)
As I caught up on some Boundless articles, I came across “Taking Love Next Door,” by David Barshinger. It’s an article about evangelism. I’ve become a very religious person over time. I never thought I’d be the churchgoing, grace-saying, “praise God!” type, but here I am.
So that comes to two topics: what kind of Catholic I am, and what kind of evangelism I do. This article warrants a new discussion of both.
As I’ve said before, and as should be clear by the content of this blog, I am Catholic. I’m a practicing Catholic: I keep practicing and practicing, and I’m getting better at it all the time. I’m a happy Catholic: I love being Catholic and would not give up on my Church for anything. I’m an integrated Catholic: I’m not just Catholic on Sundays. I’m a real Catholic: I watch Grey’s Anatomy, but I struggle over whether it’s appropriate.
I believe that the Bible contains the truth, and that means I’m called to fulfill the Great Commission:
“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”
—Matthew 28:19–20a (NAB)
That means evangelizing, sharing the Gospel with the nations. In my case, “the nations” is a little smaller than the whole world, and that means I have less work to do. However, sometimes I feel like I’m not doing enough, or that I’m doing it wrong.
Evangelism is all about love—loving a person enough to share the message of Jesus Christ with him and loving him enough to teach him the commands of Jesus, the truths of Scripture, the walk of faith. Loving him enough to disciple him.
I’ve found such joy and happiness in Christ that I want to share those feelings with everyone. Of course, I also want to still have friends, so I take small steps. I like to invite people to CSC events, especially the ones that have free food. Sometimes they take me up on the invitations; sometimes they don’t. In most cases, I keep asking. Michelle (the CSC’s pastoral assistant) grew up Protestant. She only went to a Catholic church at all because she had a friend who kept inviting her to Mass, week after week. It was a considerable time (months, I think) before she accepted, and now she’s in charge of <abbr=”Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults”>RCIA herself. I want to give people the opportunity to experience what I’ve found.
The Role of the Holy Spirit. One thing every Christian must acknowledge up front is that we, as humans, are unable to save anyone. Salvation from sin and death comes only through Jesus Christ, since “there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
And before anyone brags about the number of people he or she has led to faith in Christ, we must remind ourselves that “no one can come to [Christ] unless the Father who sent [Him] draws him” (John 6:44). The Father may use us as His instruments, but only God convicts and gives the faith for others to believe (1 Cor 3:5-7). John 16:7-11 identifies the Holy Spirit, not us, as the One Who convicts the world.
I pray that God will make me an instrument of His peace. I try to be a good influence. Last fall, I went on the CSC’s annual First Timers’ Retreat. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I started spending more and more time at the CSC after First Timers’. Without meaning to, I became a stained glass window for the light of Christ to shine through. It shone on Maura. She started hanging out at the CSC with me, and now she’s involved in her own right. We grow closer to God every day. I would never say that I saved her. I didn’t lead her to Christ; she was already Catholic. I was simply the window. I was that real Catholic, who is a normal person, but is never too far from the confessional (well, the sacristy). I am as glad that she fell back into Jesus as she is to have fallen.
Then there’s the case where I shone the light of Christ on someone on purpose. I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned Andrew here before, and I’m not sure how he’d take my blogging about him, but it’s relevant, so I’ll go for it. Andrew and I are good friends. He’s very quiet, but he’s a good guy, so we get along well. I can understand where he’s coming from. One day at lunch last spring, I was talking about singing in church. Archbishop O’Brien told us at confirmation that he wanted to see everyone singing, because if you couldn’t make a joyful noise unto the Lord, you should at least make some kind of noise. Andrew then told me what his bishop had said to him. I have no idea what the quotation was, but I distinctly remember being surprised to hear Andrew mention a bishop. I thought, “So is he Catholic or Episcopalian?”
He turned out to be Catholic. My first real attempt at evangelism, then, was based on a platitude: “The best way to get to a man’s heart is through his stomach.” In my case, it was, “the best way to get a man’s heart to God…is through his stomach.” I invited Andrew to Wednesday night dinner. The promise of free food—and lots of it—was an irresistible draw. (I have never known anyone who can eat like Andrew can.) Of course, there’s Mass before dinner, and the rosary before that, so he came to those, too. Now he comes every week, and to Sunday Mass as well. He came with me for Holy Thursday and Good Friday, so we experienced that Mass and service for the first time together. I hope he enjoys being back as much as I enjoy having him with me.
Other times, though, I feel like I’m being too pushy. I kept trying to convince him to stay for Holy Hour. When Fr. Bill leads it, we use incense. Andrew has asthma. I kept conveniently forgetting that, and he kept reminding me that he enjoys breathing. Eventually I got the message. I enjoy Holy Hour so much that, like Catholicism as a whole, I want to share it. Asking someone to purposely put himself in a situation where he might die is too much. Last week, though, I realized that I prefer Fr. Bill-run Holy Hours, but when Br. Martin leads it, there’s no incense. Perhaps this is God’s signal that dear Andrew should stick around.