3 Conversations, Disciples Making Disciples: Your Faith Story
This is the second week of our series: Three Conversations – Disciples making Disciples. Last week’s conversation was about intentional prayer. Remember, prayer is simply a conversation with God. We talk to God, and we listen to God. That’s conversation. Continue to practice intentional prayer. Practice praying with your family and close friends this way asking them to name a thing for which they want you to pray.
This week we are talking about sharing your faith with someone else. That is our second conversation. Sharing our faith can be simple and easy; however, it does require courage and the willingness to come out of our comfort zone at least a little. We may even be asked to do things that we have rarely done before. But it is what we as Catholic Christians are called to, to be disciples who make disciples. Disciple is a word that means to be a learner who shares what they have learned. This means that as we share what we have learned we help others to learn more about God.
You may have heard it said that we as Christians should have a personal and intentional relationship with Jesus, and thought to yourself, “What does that even mean?” “Is that something Catholics do?” “Isn’t that something I hear non-Catholics talk about?” If that is you, let me assure you, as a Catholic you are called to have a personal relationship with Jesus. We are all on a journey. It is important to reflect on where you have been on your journey and see how you are moving toward a relationship with Jesus.
Listen to what the last three popes have said about this:
Saint John Paul II said, “It is necessary to awaken again … a full relationship with Christ.”
Pope Emeritus Benedict said, “Christian faith is not only a matter of believing certain things are true, but above all a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.”
And finally, Pope Francis, “Being a Christian means having a living relationship with the person of Jesus.”
So what do we mean when we say every Christian should have a personal relationship with Jesus? We mean to have a relationship with Jesus Christ by conversing with Him often throughout the day and allowing Him to speak to you through scripture, people and events in your life. We mean spending time with Him as you would someone else in your life that is important to you. This is done primarily through prayer, among other ways as well. To intellectually know Jesus (to know about Jesus) or have a movement of the emotions (to feel good about Jesus) isn’t enough. We must converse with Him, too.
Have you ever heard the phrase, “you can’t give away what you don’t have yourself?” In our Gospel today, Peter makes a declaration of faith; he proclaims for the first time in history, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!” And with that, the church professed her faith in Jesus Christ, and has taught the good news of the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ in all ages. In sharing that good news, the world has never been the same. And the people who have accepted that message have never been the same either. Peter shared what he learned by having conversations with people through prayer and sharing the story of how he came to know Jesus and how that changed his life.
This week we are talking about sharing your story. Did you realize that you have a story? Most of us really don’t think much about the story that God is writing in our lives. Maybe we think it’s a boring story. Maybe we think our story is not very good or that it’s not worth telling. But we relate to other people when we share our lives, our story.
It has been said, “People listen more to witnesses than teachers, and if they do listen to a teacher, it is because they are a witness.” When we share what God has done in our lives with others there is a much better opportunity they will listen to us when we share who God is with them. This happens in conversation.
Very few of us have had the experience of the clouds opening up, a bright light shining down on us, and hearing a deep voice call out to us. Most of us have experienced God in prayer, whether on Sundays, or saying prayers together outside of Mass. Many of us can attest to answered prayers.
The most powerful part of your story is when you realize that Jesus Christ died not just for humanity, but for you particularly. When you realize that, it changes everything.
For a long time now, Catholics have not been known for sharing their faith very easily. As a matter of fact, faith has become personalized. It has become something private. In times past, sharing the faith, or evangelizing, has been seen as either something father or sister does, i.e. the clergy, or something non-Catholics do; but not us, not Catholics.
I’ve heard it said many times, “I just want to come to mass and go home.” This is one of the top reasons why the second largest Christian body of believers is former Catholics; namely because we aren’t joyfully having conversations about what Christ has done and is doing in our lives with those around us. For years, this was left to the professionals: the priests, and the sisters, because “they know more” or “they are closer to God than I am”. You may not realize it, but YOU, little ol’ YOU have an integral role in the health, growth and welfare of the Catholic Church; and it goes beyond your prayers. It’s called evangelization or sharing your faith, your story. You may be thinking, “Calm down Father. Wait just a minute here. “I’m supposed to be sharing my faith and what Jesus is doing in my life?” YES, it is your duty. Not only that, it is easier than you think. I taught the schoolchildren how to share God’s love in less than 10 seconds. And, now, I’m going to give you the “secret sauce” of how to share God’s love. You ready? “Do you know that God loves you? Do you? Well He does! He loves you more than you can imagine. Let me tell you how God is working in my life.”
Did you miss it? Do you see how easy it can be? And anyone can do it. Anyone!
Do you see how easy it can be? Sharing with someone the fact that God loves them and then telling them how God has loved you is all it takes to share your story. And anyone can do it. Anyone!
If we really believe that God’s love for us is not only good news, but the best news ever; news that changes your life, makes you a different person, helps you to see the world in a different way, helps you to treat yourself and others in a different way, then why wouldn’t we want to share it.
In the South, we all know how important sports is, and especially college football. You all know someone who is rabid about college football. You know they are by the pictures hanging on the walls of their house and office; they usually have magnets stuck to their cars; the have t-shirts, coffee mugs, and hats; they spend Saturdays either at the stadium of their team or watching it every Saturday in the Fall, sometimes forgoing weddings of friends because “the game is on” that day; and there are countless other ways you know that they are fanatical about their team. You may wonder sometime but you hope that they know that it’s just a game. Truly it is a meaningful experience for these sports fans, but it is only a game. For people who are committed Christians, however, you know that their faith means more to them than some game. If Jesus is not a part of my conversations, how will someone know not only how important He is to me, but the impact He has had on my life. Sure, it can be seen through my temperament, and even through my actions; both of those things are very important. But if Jesus does not permeate my conversations, how will they know it’s Jesus that makes the difference?
Saint Paul tells the Romans in a letter, “…how will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe in him whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone to proclaim? And how can people proclaim unless they are sent?” My dear brothers and sisters, you are sent. You are the ones called to proclaim. It’s not just me and Fr. Halsema. It’s not just the Bishop and the Deacons. It’s you. You are called as well. And you can do it.
Through Christ, you have access to the gift of everlasting life! if this is what you really believe, wouldn’t you want to share that with others? Our faith is personal, but it isn’t private. Christ was sent into the world to lead people to salvation. As His disciples, we are called to follow His lead and continue His mission to do the same.
Others will come to know Christ if they hear about Him and they will hear about Him only if disciples are willing to share what they believe! We are called as individuals to share our story, but we aren’t called to do it alone! God is a community of persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and He desires us to be a community of persons too. The more you surround yourself with others who are following Christ, the easier your own journey will be because you’ll have the support, guidance and love of others walking beside you.
I’d like to end by asking you to consider this question: “How has believing in Jesus Christ as my savior changed my life and how do I share my story?” Think about the relationships you have in your life. Is there someone you’re already comfortable having these conversations with? Reflect on your faith journey and share it with them. Ask that other person to do the same.
You can do this. . . I promise you. God would not have called you if He wasn’t already equipping you to do it. He believes in you. And the more that you share your story the easier it will be.