Benedictine University and MySpiritualAdvisor.com’s Mark Kurowski reflects on who in your parish or congregation is the perfect person to evangelize. The model given by Andrew in the Gospel of John reading for the Second Sunday of Ordinary Time points us in the right direction. Listen to this podcast of his reflection for the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time and send us a comment. Please read John 1:35-42.

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For Benedictine University and MySpiritualAdvisor.com, this is Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 1/15/2012The 2nd Sunday of Ordinary Time.

Please pause this audio and read John 1:35-42.

   If the Church is going to grow, you are going to have to be the one who invites others. Why would you be willing to invite others? You want to invite others because Jesus is more than just a new philosophy.  Jesus is more than just a wise man.  Jesus is more.  He is the Messiah, Anointed One, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. He is worth the risk and we have no option but to begin to start inviting people to come to our Church with us.

   I remember sitting in a Catholic seminary, listening to a Catholic priest teach us about evangelization.  He looked at me and said, “Mark, don’t you think that you protestants have a better handle on evangelization than us Catholics?” Having been Catholic for about six years, I said, “Well, when I WAS protestant I noticed the same hesitancy to evangelize that WE Catholics have now.”

   It is true.  Mainline protestants, of which I was a member, have a lot more evangelization programs, but they are not well attended or done with much enthusiasm for very long.  A Methodist friend of mine sent me a newsletter that showed that after nearly twenty years of effort, people are still leaving the United Methodist Church in the United States more than they are joining it.  We in the Catholic Church often talk about the “new evangelization.” What we mean is someone else doing the evangelization through electronic media.  

    Anecdotally, I can tell you that the best form of evangelization does not come in the form of a program.  It comes in the form of a person in a parish or congregation who is captivated by Jesus and can’t help themselves but invite others to get to know him like they do.  Usually, it is a person who is not a theologian.  They usually are faithful, pray daily, experience Jesus in the Eucharist and don’t even pretend to have all the answers.  

    Most importantly, the unofficial parish evangelists are not usually the priest or pastor.  My experience tells me that a priest or pastor can drive someone away from the Church faster than anyone else, but when a lay person who is excited about their faith in Christ simply invites someone to Church, it says something loudly and clearly.  It says, “You can do this, too.”
    There is a reason why we have four Gospels.  They often tell differing and sometimes contradictory stories of events in the life of Jesus, with the exception of Jesus death and resurrection. The Gospel of Mark, which we are focusing on this year at Mass, tells the story of Jesus walking along the seashore, seeing Andrew and Peter, summoning them and they come.  It is a very priestly oriented form of evangelization.  The Gospel of John is, as usual, different from Mark.
    The Gospel reading for this second Sunday in Ordinary Time is from the Gospel of John.  We see this same outline for evangelization which our unofficial parish evangelists use.  We have Andrew, who is following John the Baptist hear him declare something about Jesus, “This is the Lamb of God,” meaning “this is the Messiah who is going to deliver us from our sins.”  Andrew is so excited that he leaves John the Baptizer and follows Jesus.  He goes to tell his brother Simon right away.  When he comes, he simply says, “I have found the Messiah.” Simon encounters Jesus and he is then called Peter.
    The dynamic shows that evangelization is like dropping a stone in a pond.  John brings Andrew to Jesus, Andrew brings Peter to Jesus, Peter will go and bring others to Jesus.  Each of them is encouraged by this idea that Jesus is more than just any man; there is something special about that man.  So, the first thing about evangelization that I want you to see from this is that anyone who has a relationship with Jesus can evangelize.
    One of the big complaints about the liturgy which sparked the changes was that some people felt that Jesus was not respected as more than just a good friend.  To this fact that Jesus is not just a friend, I could not agree more.  What I do know is that Jesus Christ is Lord.  He died for our sins.  He gained for us eternal life.  The Gospel of John, more than any other, makes a greater point: we can know the God of the universe intimately and personally in the person of Jesus Christ.
    That is the key.  It is that Jesus comes to us in a manger and in the palm of our hands.  It is this personal relationship, your personal relationship that is the key to evangelization.  The person who invites others to Church must know Christ personally and be able to tell what difference Christ makes in their life.  They don’t need to know all of the dogmas perfectly.  They don’t need to know all of the rubrics of the liturgy (if you don’t know what rubrics are, don’t worry).  They don’t need to be perfect in their ability to talk about the Church and its teachings.  All that they have to do is be able to tell others what difference Christ has made in their lives.
    Ultimately, that is what others want to know: what difference will Christ make in my life?
    The person who evangelizes is willing to go to others who they think have a need.  The person who evangelizes has a relationship with Jesus Christ that is personal and makes a difference in how they live their lives.  The person who evangelizes knows that Jesus is more than just a good friend, he is the Lord of the universe and they have come face to face in a personal relationship with him.
    So, as usual, this begs some questions.  Do you have a relationship with Christ that is so meaningful that you would like others to have the same relationship?  If not, why not? Savor the encounter with Jesus in the Eucharist. Read about him in the Scriptures. Talk about him to your friends.  Invite others to come with you.   You too can be like Andrew and Peter.  Jesus is calling you to do it. Amen?  Amen.
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