According to St. Matthew, Christ called all his disciples together one-day and told them to go into the whole world and make disciples of all peoples. This great commission was given not just to the Apostles, but to all of Jesus’ followers – that means to us. Yet traditionally, Catholics are reluctant to give verbal expression of their faith in the presence of others. The reasons for this are varied. Many of us value the American values of pluralism and tolerance and it seems socially ungracious to talk religion around the water cooler at work or in similar circumstances. Furthermore, we are uncomfortable by the “in your face” evangelism of some fundamentalists and don’t want to be associated with that sort of thing at all. Besides that, many contemporary Catholics have grown up without clear knowledge of their beliefs and what underlies them. So, they feel inadequate to explain or defend them if challenged. And yet, if we are true to the Lord, we cannot simply dispense ourselves of his desire that we share our faith with others and help them to discover the gift of God’s love. It seems to me that the starting point for us is living our faith before we talk about it. We gather on Sunday to celebrate the Eucharist. We are devoted to our families and are conscientious in our work. We treat people with dignity and respect. We share our time and resources with the less fortunate. We do not engage in negative speech or backstabbing. This witness raises questions in people’s minds; it prompts them to wonder what motivates and inspires us. They may be moved to ask us. And at that point we need to be ready to share our faith. The best way to do that, I think, is simply to share our own story. All of us, if we think about it, have had moments in which we knew we were in the presence of God, were touched or helped or encouraged or healed by God, were brought up short or deeply comforted by hearing or reading a Bible passage or listening to a Christian song. The help might have come through another person, but we know it was God who brought it about. This is what we share with the person who asks. We are not talking theology. We are sharing our own experience. And because it is real to us, it often is powerful to others. When we do this, a seed has been planted. There has been a graced encounter. Sharing our own experience gives other people something to think about. It provides God with a way into their lives. Let’s do more of this. It’s what Christ had in mind when He sent us out.
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