Yesterday, as I read the Gospel from Mark 3:13-19, I zeroed in on Jesus’ summoning of the twelve whom he appointed as His Apostles. I tried to imagine what they felt when they realized they were being chosen to stand out from the hundreds of other disciples who were following Jesus at the time. Were they overcome with joy? Probably. Did their chests swell with pride for being chosen? I’m sure they did. Later, in Mark 10:35-45, we discover James’ and John’s ambition to be placed above the others.
And what about the hundreds of other people who had flocked to Him, followed Him, and became His disciples? How did they feel? Did they feel left out? Or did the joy they had discovered from following Jesus infuse new life into their vocations as spouses and parents, and into their occupations?
Two thousand years later, not much has changed. The Holy Spirit is still calling men to be apostles by calling them into the priesthood, and women into religious life. Their love for Jesus prompts them to embrace lives of poverty, chastity and obedience and live by divine providence as the first Apostles learned to do. I am grateful for their sacrifices that, through them, the rest of us are brought closer to Jesus.
The rest of us. What about the rest of us? Because we have not been summoned, does it mean that we can’t or shouldn’t help bring others to Jesus as well? Absolutely not. Those disciples not chosen for the Twelve didn’t just throw up their hands and say, “Okay, that’s it, I’m not on the A-team so I can go home now.” No, they remained faithful followers. And, so should we.
But, our job is not just to follow Jesus. It’s to tell others about Him, to introduce them to Him. In, Thursday’s Gospel we read in Mark 3:8, “Hearing what He was doing, a large number of people came to him….”. How did they “hear” what Jesus was doing? They heard because those following Jesus told them about His saving grace. And, then, they not only heard, but they saw with their own eyes the joy and excitement displayed by those who had seen the Messiah.
I know what you’re thinking: “The point Jerry’s trying to get across is that we need to evangelize, that we need to go out and tell others about Jesus.” You’re right. And, I know what you’re feeling: “That’s not easy to do. Anyhow, most of the people I know already go to church and those who don’t don’t care. What if people push back and don’t want to hear about Jesus? What if they ask me questions to which I don’t know the answers? It makes me uncomfortable!” I get it. Been there.
You might be thinking, too, “You know, I lead a good Christian life, I’ll let my example speak for itself.” Well, that’s all fine and good, but it’s too passive. That’s like seeing the guy or girl of your dreams and thinking you don’t need to speak to him or her because your good looks or your fancy clothes are enough of an attraction when, instead, it’s a vivacious, outgoing and charming personality that’s needed. No, you have to take action, you have to do something. But, where do you start?
I will assume you have friends. And, every one of those friends is in love with Christ, they look forward to going to Mass every Sunday (and during the week, if possible), and they consider receiving Communion the high point of their day, right? What, no? They aren’t all that way? You mean you have some friends who are perhaps a little lukewarm? Oh, and even a few who don’t profess any faith? Okay, good, you’re not alone, then.
The operative phrase in the above is that you have friends. We all have friends and family whom we love but whose faith is all across the board. And, since we are all sinners, every single one of us has room to grow in virtue that only Christ can bring through a close relationship with Him. Our mission is to help that happen.
What makes for good friendship? Usually, it begins with getting to know each other through good conversation. Good conversation brings with it a certain intimacy which, in turn, brings a level of trust. A deep and trusting friendship turns into a loving relationship that desires the best for each other. And, how can we love someone more than to wish for them a relationship with God that will bring them joy for all eternity?
I know, it sounds good, but how do you make it happen? Well, it usually won’t happen by itself, meaning you have to set it in motion. There are various ways to begin. And, it’s not by following a “friend” on social media.
An easy way is to sit in a different pew than you’re used to sitting in, or attend a different Mass, and meet someone new. Strike up a conversation after Mass. If that’s the Mass they usually attend, make it a point to go back and meet them again.
It may help to have a plan. I have a friend who, at the beginning of the year, spends time in prayer asking the Holy Spirit to put on his heart three men whom he should try to bring closer to Christ. Then, he makes it his mission for the year to help them get there.
You might think of a friend who is struggling in some way. Perhaps someone who hasn’t been to Mass in a while due to the pandemic. Give them a call to check up on them and see how they’re doing. See if you can stop by and chat with them for a while. If you can, follow up later and do it again.
Invite someone you’d like to know better out to dinner or for a drink at the local pub. Sit around a campfire and share stories about your lives. Get together at your house for dinner and an evening of playing cards. Then invite them to pray the Rosary with you. Make plans to do it again soon.
Once you’ve come to know the person better, and they you, interject more of your faith into the conversation. It can be done gently and unobtrusively. Let them see your love for Christ. Don’t worry if they don’t jump on board right away or reject your invitation, give it time. You’ve planted the seed. Keep watering and fertilizing that seed by following up. It will grow.
If you meet with other men or women in a small faith sharing group or attend a Bible study, invite that friend, after a while, to come join you. Perhaps invite someone to a Welcome, or Christ Renews His Parish weekend, or a Cursillo weekend. Talk to them about how uplifted you are when you attend your Adoration hour and suggest they consider taking on an hour themselves.
Above all else, PRAY. You must pray for your friends. Pray that they open their hearts fully to the Holy Spirit. And, pray for your own docility to the Holy Spirit so that you will follow His lead.
You might think this sounds like manipulation. It’s not. It’s love. Manipulation would be for the purpose of what you get out of it. Through your love, you are helping someone find the love of Christ, for their own good, not yours.
Does it work? Absolutely! It’s what brought me to Christ and the Catholic faith almost nine years ago. I was Agnostic, had no faith and didn’t care one way or the other. But, two men, both strong in their faith, befriended me and slowly and gently led me to Jesus through friendship and good conversation. They spent and invested time in me, invited me into their world, and in that world I found more love than I’d ever known. Out of gratitude, I want to do the same. Won’t you join me?
“Lord Jesus, thank You for placing friends in my life who, through their love of neighbor, took the time to patiently invest in me so that I would come to know You. Lord, please help me bring those who do not know Your love, and those who have let their relationship with You become stagnant, to a full and eternal loving relationship with You. Amen.”
(Bring a Friend to Christ was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)
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