One of the ways you can celebrate the Year of Faith is to bring a friend to church. A personal invitation to a neighbor, coworker or family member can be effective—and yet risky.
The great calling of the New Evangelization encompasses bringing home fallen away Catholics along with potential converts. So many around you are crippled and poor, limping through life and starving for love because they don’t know how to receive the authentic and lasting love that comes from Jesus Christ. They don’t get it that God really loves them. They don’t get it that all their love relationships overflow from their love relationship with God.
Those whose relationships are a disaster most likely are the same ones who are so far away from God. Perhaps they feel angry with him or unworthy or unaware of his longing to love them. You can help them whether you have an intimate or a casual relationship with them. Your closeness with them doesn’t matter as much as your closeness to God. If they perceive you as successful in your relationships, they will want to discover your source of success.
Put aside your spiritual pride that they will reject you. No, you are not rejected; God is. You act as his ambassador and if they falter in their response, he will take care of it some other way. Even when they refuse your invitation, you gain a blessing. God rejoices at every effort you make toward the salvation of someone else. So let your love for God overcome your fear of rejection. Just act on the stirrings of the Holy Spirit in your own heart and extend the invitation. Then follow through by standing beside them, being available, encouraging them and praying for them.
Like those invited to the master’s banquet in Luke 14:15-24, those you invite may give many excuses for declining. I wonder why the master didn’t give the first group another chance, a second invitation? You can do that. Invite them a second time and even a third time. Months may pass before they come back to you and accept your earlier invitation. They may surprise you by showing up at Mass with someone else.
In the parable the master tells the servant to go and invite the second group to sit in places of honor. Those are the ones considered unworthy in those days, and often today: the poor, crippled, blind and lame. So don’t seek those who need the Lord only within your own little circle. Invite those often judged undesirable or those who judge themselves unworthy. In their inner poverty and blindness, they may need just as many chances as the first group, but for a different reason. They may resist not because of preoccupation with the world but because they don’t believe they are loveable.
So put aside your hesitation to break out of your Sunday comfort zone. Deviate from whatever routine you are in and take a chance that may change someone’s life forever.
Your baptism calls you into a way of life, into a way of being, into a sense of responsibility for others. Your struggle to fulfill your part in influencing others to grow spiritually can bring frustration until you admit that all you can do is introduce them to your personal friend, Jesus Christ. You are not the one who saves them or heals them. Simply bring them into his presence and then watch the Holy Spirit change their hearts.
Because someone other than you does the real work, you can relax and enjoy whatever the Holy Spirit inspires you to do, as you faithfully support God’s work in them. You respond to his initiative and they respond to your invitation. Arm in arm with him between you, joyfully escort them into the life of the church. Take the risk!
Who is God inspiring you to invite to Mass or Bible Study?
More information on the Year of Faith is available online: www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/how-we-teach/new-evangelization/year-of-faith/index.cfm
(© 2012 Nancy H C Ward)