Monday, January 10, 2011

Go With What You Know

Today's Gospel shows that Jesus accepted people as He found them. Mark's first chapter tells of Jesus encountering Siman and Andrew, James and John as they were busy at work. Rather than trying to explain how he wanted them to change their lives, He simply used the image of fishing to invite them to join Him: "Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men" (Mark 1:17).
While it must have been intriguing to them, they certainly had no idea what they were really getting into. But by making them comfortable and using their previous experience as a basis for conversation, Jesus showed us all how to evangelize.
Some people think that they have to constantly "invite" (badger, pressure, convince) someone who is not Christian/Catholic to join the Church, as if it will be a major departure from who they have always been. But in reality, being a believer is simply becoming who we, as human being created by God, are meant to be. It is really the fulfillment of our human destiny, and so faith always builds on human experience. This is one of the reasons that we have a long period of Inquiry at the beginning of RCIA for those wishing to explore joining the Catholic Church. It gives us and them a chance to discover how everyone's life experience can lead to accepting the gift of faith that is offered.
As we interact with people each day who may not be believers, I think we need to be conscious that our words and actions can have an impact on whether or not they ever consider exploring membership in the Church as a possibility. Rather than finally giving in to pressure, the most often cited reason for people to give on why they decided to explore the RCIA is that they knew someone (relative, neighbor, friend, co-worker) who is catholic and impressed them with their quiet faith.
So, the first step to helping others come to a knowledge and love of the Church is to make sure we are demonstrating the effects of our own faith. (Remember the Gifts and Fruits of the Holy Spirit?) Hopefully we will all try to put faith into practice each day. And then, if someone is impressed with how you handle a situation, simply respond that you use your faith and the strength that comes from being part of a community of believers to help you make decisions in your life. If they are intrigued by this, perhaps you can invite them to simply accompany you to church one day. This gentle invitation (follow me, come and see) worked well for Jesus. Maybe we should all give it a try.

No comments: