(Scriptures for today's Mass)
Audio for homily
If you’ve ever wondered how it all began,
today’s gospel tells the story.
About 30 years after Jesus was born
there came a man named John, a relative of Jesus, perhaps a cousin,
and John began to tell others about Jesus and lead them to him.
It was a word of mouth operation: one on one, person to person.
It’s how Jesus and his message, his gospel, became known.
The steps were very simple:
Someone who’s already a believer
tells someone else something about Jesus
(“He’s the Lamb of God!”)
and leads that person to him.
The rest is the work of Jesus
who meets everyone who comes to him in faith.
The process is not at all complicated.
It doesn’t cost a cent.
You don’t need a degree in theology to do this.
And this process has a name - which I hesitate to share with you
because if I do, it might turn you off or scare you away.
The process is called…. “evangelization.”
Don’t run! Hang in there with me for a bit more!
To “evangelize” means simply to share the gospel message
and the message of the gospel is Jesus
who IS the message,
who IS the Word,
who is the Word of God made flesh.
To evangelize is help people meet Jesus.
Just what John does in the gospel we just heard.
He’s hanging out with two of his friends and Jesus walks by
and John says, “See him? He’s the Lamb of God.”
And the two leave John and catch up with Jesus
and began to talk to him and Jesus invites them to join him.
And they do.
Then one of those two, Andrew, goes to his brother, Simon,
and does the same.
He tells his brother about Jesus and leads Simon to him.
And Simon becomes Peter and the rest is history!
That’s it in a nutshell.
You share something of your faith with someone else
and point your friend in the Lord’s direction.
The rest is up to Jesus and your friend.
And that’s “evangelization.”
Could you do that?
Can I do that?
It’s easy for me to evangelize here on a Sunday morning
with a crowd of folks who chose on their own to be here.
It’s easy because you expect me to talk about Jesus here.
You’re not surprised that I’m talking about Jesus.
You’re not surprised that I invite you to grow closer to him.
Here it’s easy. With you, it’s easy.
But how about with friends of mine who don’t know the Lord?
or have forgotten him?
How about folks who no longer join us on Sunday mornings?
It’s much easier to preach to 300 people
from a pulpit on a Sunday morning than to turn to one person
at home or at work or at school, in the neighborhood,
and share something, share anything about my faith in Jesus.
And what might that look like, if I did?
What might that sound like, if I did.?
Maybe something like this…
Maybe you say to a friend or relative, a coworker or a classmate:
“You know, I really needed some time with Jesus this weekend
and it was a scramble to get to church but it was worth it.
Sometimes I think he’s the only one who listens to me and gets me.”
That might be a simple, honest way of telling someone else,
“Behold the Lamb of God…”
• The response you get might be dismissive:
“So, you’re some kind of Jesus freak now?”
And you might say,
“No. It was just good to find an hour of peace, some time to pray,
to talk to someone who really listens to me.”
• Or the response might be total, uncomfortable silence,
and only God then would know
what your words stirred in your friend’s heart.
• Or the response might be one of interest, something like,
“So you really believe God listens to you?”
And who knows where the conversation will go from there?
You know all that stuff I write in my letters in the bulletin
about parishes becoming collaboratives with one pastor, one staff?
The archdiocese knows, you know and I know
that structural changes in parish life
won’t bring anyone back to Jesus, back to church.
But the collaborative effort presumes that you and I,
you and I,
are going to work to share our faith, one on one,
word of mouth, person to person, with others.
In the gospel, that’s where evangelization began:
with friends, family members and some strangers.
It’s no different today.
So let me ask you…
Who’s the family member, who’s the friend,
who’s the coworker, who’s the classmate
with whom you might, this week, share a word of faith?
First, each of us will need to ponder what we might want to share:
what’s of such value in our faith that we’d want others to share it?
What have I to share with someone else about my faith in Jesus?
my faith in the Lord? my faith in God?
A problem in all of this might be – his name.
How many of you would be more comfortable
talking to a coworker about God rather than Jesus?
I said the name Jesus seven times
when I read the gospel for you this morning.
Did you flinch or feel uncomfortable when I said?
Of course not! It’s. His. Name.
We should use it. He would like us to.
Still afraid of what others might think of you?
How they might respond?
How you would respond to them?
Afraid you might be called a Jesus freak?
If nothing else, you can always reply,
“I’m just sayin’… he’s the only one who really listens, he gets me.”
And let it be with that.
You’ll have said a word about Jesus.
You’ll have pointed your friend in the Lord’s direction.
Let Jesus and the Spirit do the rest.
So, I want to challenge you – and I’ll challenge myself as well –
to find one person this week
with whom you might share a word about your faith in Jesus.
One person you might begin to lead in the Lord’s direction.
And I promise to write about my experience of that in my letter
in next week’s bulletin.
If you hear me preach regularly,
you know I never tire of reminding us that the Word of scripture
draws us to the altar of the Sacrament,
that here at his Table, Jesus feeds us with his life, his Body and Blood,
to nourish and strengthen us for the work of the Gospel.
So pray with me that the Eucharist this day,
Sunday, January 18,
will give us, each of us, the courage we need
to share with even one other person this week
that faith we have in Jesus.
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