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St. Philip the Deacon and Evangelist

In last Thursday’s first Scripture reading, Acts 8:26-40, we read where St. Philip the Evangelist (the deacon, not the Apostle), at the prompting of the Holy Spirit, met, instructed, converted and baptized the Ethiopian eunuch.  Philip took to heart the Great Commission handed down by Jesus to, “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.” (Mt 28:19).

Let’s take a look at evangelization.  What is it exactly?

In a very simple sense, it is telling someone else about something near and dear to your heart.  Something you love.  People know that I love pizza, I love my wife and family, I love to mow grass, and I love to fly fish in a mountain stream.  They know these things because I talk about them.  I don’t keep them a secret.

But, there’s something I love even more than pizza, my family, my zero turn mower, and fly fishing.  I love Jesus. People who know me know this because I tell them.  And, to people I don’t know, I write about my love for Him in this blog.  It’s one way in which I spread the Gospel (which means “Good News” by the way).  It’s really no different than telling someone the good news of when you have a new grandchild, when you get a new car, or when you’ve become engaged.  

Sadly, the word evangelization makes people uncomfortable.  It brings about visions of knocking on doors, of preaching from a street corner with a bull horn, and of putting one’s self in difficult situations where you might get asked questions to which you don’t have answers.  But, turn that around and look at it from the other side.  There are millions of people out there who have questions and are seeking answers.  Questions about how to be happier, how to feel loved, how to deal with suffering.  Questions about God and Jesus.  Questions that are just waiting for answers from those of us who experience the happiness associated with Christ’s love, and the value of suffering that comes with our faith.  Answers that will help bring about positive change in another person.  Answers that will ultimately save souls.

We all know people who are searching for something better.  They may be family, friends, a co-worker, the next door neighbor, your child’s little league coach or piano teacher.  People you know who see you and see what you have and want some of it for themselves.  They may not feel comfortable in coming to you directly.  But, if you’re observant, you can see the signs – signs that they’re hurting, lonely, afraid.

My conversion experience began with two men who befriended me, saw my struggles, and with love and patience, brought me to an encounter with Christ where I had a “Pauline” experience and got knocked off my horse.  And, then, those two men and several other “Ananaises” brought me even closer to our Lord and helped me get to know Him. 

With my conversion, I immediately felt Christ’s love for me, but I’d be lying to say I was immediately an evangelist.  No, it took a while for me to learn to love Him back and to build up my faith with a strong interior life. That transformation took place through deep and consistent daily prayer during which my relationship with Jesus grew stronger.  I talked to Him and, in meditating on His Word, I listened to what He had to say to me.  By acting on His promptings I grew in virtue, in holiness. People noticed. They began coming to me for answers of how to know Jesus better. 

So, how can you evangelize others?  First, get to know them (and that applies to family members as well as strangers).  Invite them into your life.  Make friends with them.  Build relationships.  Share meals and good conversations.  Get to know what makes them happy and what their struggles are.  Create an atmosphere where they feel comfortable asking the questions for which they are desperately seeking answers.  And, most of all, pray for them!

At some point you can begin talking more openly about your faith, telling them about Jesus.  To start, maybe you invite them to the parish picnic.  Soon, they might join you in a Bible study.  Perhaps, then, they will come and experience mass with you.  As they start growing in their relationship with Jesus, take them deeper in understanding His life by leading them in a meditation of the mysteries of the Rosary.  And, never stop praying for them.  Put all these things together and you have become an evangelist.  You are making disciples. 

The Ethiopian eunuch whom St. Philip evangelized went back to his country and began spreading the Good News to his queen and fellow countrymen.  That one disciple became a disciple maker.  Soon, Christianity spread throughout that region and the Catholic Church in Ethiopia became one of the first Orthodox Christian Churches outside of the Roman Empire and is still strong today.  

Jesus not only gave the Great Commission to the Apostles, he gave it to us.  We are called to make disciples who will go on to become disciple makers themselves.  Our parish needs it.  Our Church needs it.  Humanity needs it.

With whom will you meet today or tomorrow that will bring an opportunity to begin a beautiful new relationship that will ultimately bring them to Christ?  Be like St. Philip the Evangelist!

(How to Evangelize Like St. Philip was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

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