Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Bring a Friend to Christ

October 20, 2010
Wednesday of the Twenty-ninth Week in Ordinary Time

By Colleen O'Sullivan

Shout with exultation, O city of Zion,
For great in your midst
Is the Holy One of Israel!
(Isaiah 12:6)

To me, the very least of all the holy ones, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the inscrutable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for all what is the plan of the mystery hidden from ages past in God who created all things, so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the Church to the principalities and authorities in the heavens. (Ephesians 3:7-10)

Jesus said to his disciples: “Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour when the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come… Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.” (Luke 12;39-40, 48b)

…Give thanks to the Lord, acclaim his name;
Among the nations make known his deeds,
Proclaim how exalted is his name.
(Isaiah 12:4)

Any one of today’s Scripture readings alone could have served as the basis for a whole Daily Tripod, but when I read them in their entirety, I thought what a perfect combination they are for what we’re about in Cursillo.

First, we are reminded of the wondrous gift we have received. In Isaiah 12 we are entreated to sing with exultation and thanksgiving, for the Holy One of Israel is in our midst! God is with us! St. Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians, says this God in our midst is to be found in the "inscrutable riches of Christ."

St. Paul goes on to say that by the gift of God’s grace, he has been called to preach the Good News of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, to bring them to faith in the Lord.

Not many of us have had the dramatic sort of revelation the apostle Paul experienced on the road to Damascus, but we are all called in our own ways to spread the Gospel. In Cursillo, we say we are called to “make a friend, be a friend, and bring a friend to Christ.”

The Gospel reading for today serves to lend urgency to our efforts. We don’t know how many tomorrows we will have before we are called to account for our actions. We have been entrusted with the greatest gift of all, salvation in Christ, and, therefore, great things will be expected of us.

Make a friend. Be a friend. Bring a friend to Christ. Making friends has never been something I’ve worried about. Wherever life has taken me, I’ve made friends along the way. I don’t think being a friend is that difficult, either. Yes, you have to put some effort into maintaining friendships, but if you treat your friends the way you wish they would treat you, you will be a good friend.

But how do you bring a friend to Christ? That’s a little more difficult. If you’ve ever read The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver, you know that you aren’t likely to succeed by trying to force your ideas wholesale on someone without respect for who they are and what their experiences have been. Bringing someone to Christ is, I think, often a much subtler process, akin to what happens in the parable of the sower. You sow the seeds. You water them and feed them. Some of them will grow to fruition and some won’t. Some of the seeds could take so long to mature that you yourself may never see the resulting plant. But, nonetheless, we are called to plant those seeds.

Before you plant any seeds, though, you may need to get outside of your comfort zone. We all have friends through Cursillo and other church groups and, for many of us, these tend to be the majority of people we socialize and interact with. But these friends are already Christians! You need to be thinking of other people you encounter, maybe at work, maybe on your street, maybe as close as in your home.

The first seed is planted through prayer. Pray that Jesus will work through you to touch your friends and pray that your friends will respond with open hearts. Fr. Ron Rolheiser, OMI, speaker, columnist and author, writes a weekly column for his website. He wrote one a few months ago about what you can do when someone in your family is not a believer or has fallen away from the practice of his or her faith. What he says applies to bringing anyone to Christ: When you love someone and pray for them, “he or she is touching the ‘hem of Christ’s garment,’ is being held to the Body of Christ…They are touching the Body of Christ because your touch is Christ’s touch.” So pray, pray, pray!(www.ronrolheiser.com/columnarchive/?id=517, “Touching Our Loved ones Inside the Body of Christ”)

The second seed has to do with yourself, with exemplifying the faith to which you are calling your friend. In order to have credibility as a witness to Christ, you have to be something or embody something that someone else would like to be or have. You have to be the face of Christ to your friends. You have to be faithful, prayerful, kind, generous, etc.

There are many other seeds involved in this whole process of bringing a friend to Christ, but these are two I often think about.

On Monday nights at 8:00 I like to watch “The Journey Home” on EWTN. Each week a different guest tells his or her story of coming to or returning to the Catholic Church. Many of the guests are Christians who have come from other churches, but for some, the Catholic Church is where they first met Christ. If you have time some Monday evening, it’s worth watching.

Take a few minutes today to prayerfully reflect on your own faith journey and to give thanks for those who have sown the seeds of faith in your life. What was it about them that brought you closer to Christ?