Acts 2:2-3, Commencement, Disciple-Maker, Discipleship, Evangelization, Friendship, Friendship Deficit Syndrome, Holy Spirit, Mt 28:19, Pentecost
I went to a high school graduation party yesterday for a young friend of mine, Thomas, with whom I’ve had the pleasure of working side by side as a volunteer repairing people’s homes, and who has been a great help to me in maintaining my own property. After writing a note to him in the obligatory greeting card, I realized that my sentiments were not so much congratulatory as they were well wishes for the future and an affirmation that he will do well and go far. Thomas, is bright and hard working and I believe he will see his high school graduation not as the end of something, but as the beginning, or “commencement”, of a promising future; that his diploma is more than a confirmation of a job well done, but a conferring of responsibility to do something great.
While I was at the party, it occurred to me that it was my second event of the day to celebrate a “commencement”. The first was attending mass on Pentecost Sunday, the day on which the Apostles utilized the gifts of the Holy Spirit which had been conferred upon them in the upper room. It was the day they graduated from simply being disciples to becoming disciple-makers.
Unlike Thomas and other graduating seniors who will go on to college before they effectively utilize all that they’ve learned, the Apostles, didn’t waste any time. When the Holy Spirit descended on the Jews in Jerusalem, Peter became the first to accept the Great Commission to make disciples of all nations (Mt 28:19). With fortitude, he proclaimed the Gospel message of salvation through Jesus Christ. When he was done, three thousand Jews converted.
Pentecost serves as a reminder to all of us Catholics that, by virtue of our own Baptism and Confirmation, we have the right and duty to utilize the gifts which the Holy Spirit has conferred upon us to discover how to bring the message of salvation to other people.
It’s doubtful that we will experience a noise like a strong driving wind, or tongues as of fire (Acts 2:2-3) that prompt us to take action, but we all do experience opportunities to begin the process of saving souls through Jesus. I’m not talking about evangelizing by standing on a street corner preaching through a bull horn. No, it’s much simpler than that. It begins with friendship and a love that desires good for the other person. And, there’s no greater good than to know Jesus Christ.
Our society today is starving for true friendship. We have what my friend, Dr. Mike Scherschligt of the Holy Family School of Faith, calls FDS – Friendship Deficit Syndrome. Virtual friendship through social media platforms isn’t working. Loneliness and depression caused by a lack of personal interaction and friendship are the leading causes of an alarming increase in suicides. People are lost. Many don’t know who they are or what they are. They don’t know what love is. They don’t know what brings happiness. And, they no longer know truth. They don’t know God. Souls are waiting to be saved through friendship.
Through friendship, meaningful conversation, and hospitality we build relationships. We get to know and understand each other and we build mutual trust. It takes time, but when a friendship develops to this level, the friend who is far away from our Lord is much more likely to accept an invitation from you to explore or go deeper in faith. The door is opened for you to arrange an encounter with Jesus. That encounter may come from inviting the person to a small group discussion, a bible study, to attend mass, spend an hour in Adoration, or pray a Rosary with you. As they get more comfortable, you walk as their companion on their journey while they establish their own relationship with Christ. It’s the ultimate win-win for everyone – they discover the love and mercy of our Lord, and you receive abundant graces for your effort.
It works. Two men who, in honoring their duty, made it their mission to get to know me. They followed up by building a relationship with me based on trust. Then, they brought me to an encounter with Jesus. The rest is history.
“‘Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of Your faithful, enkindle in us the fire of Your love. Send forth Your Spirit so that we may be created, and You shall renew the face of the earth.’ Lord, open our hearts to Your Spirit so that we, like the Apostles at Pentecost, will boldly step out of our comfort zones and graduate from simply being disciples to being disciple-makers. Amen.”
(Evangelization Begins with Friendship was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)
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