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During my first read through of Patrick Sullivan’s book, “Dare to be an Evangelist”, I thought, “This book’s a scam. Twenty of the forty dares in the book are not specifically about evangelization, but about prayer or the spiritual life in general. Make a Novena. Pray the Rosary. Go to confession”. I thought this book should be called “Dare to pray”, not “Dare to evangelize.”
Yet I quickly realized my attitude was wrong. We cannot evangelize if we do not pray. First of all – the fruits of Evangelization come from God and not from us. It is only the Holy Spirit who can touch and change hearts. Evangelization is God’s work and He invites us to take part in it – if we want to do a good job, we need to be obedient and docile to His will. In our Gospel today the Apostles are fishing all night and catch nothing . Yet when they obey the command of Jesus, they catch many fish. If we try to evangelize without prayer, we will fail. If we are faithful and obedient to Jesus Christ, we will fill our nets full. We must pray for the people we love. We must listen to God and act only when He tells us. To be attentive to God’s voice, we must learn to listen, we must learn to pray.
Secondly and more importantly, we need to love Jesus before we can help others love Jesus. I once had a friend who worked as a security guard for music concerts. He would brag ,“Celine Dion – yes I know her.” He would act as if he was best friends with all kinds of famous people – U2, Justin Bieber, Beyonce. But If we were to ask, “Can you introduce us to her?” he would not have been able to do so. Maybe he got his picture with her once – but didn’t have her number, or visit her cottage or get a call from her when things were bad. He was a fan, but not a friend.
The goal of evangelization is not to create the Jesus fan club – but to lead people to a real relationship with God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. If we only have a superficial connection with Jesus, all we can do is lead people to a superficial connection with Jesus. We cannot do this unless we ourselves have a real relationship with Him. In our Gospel Jesus asks Peter three times today “Do you love me?” We must ask ourselves – do we love jesus? Do we know Jesus? If we don’t know Jesus or Love Jesus, how can we possibly help other people to know Him and love Him?
We come to know and love Jesus through prayer. Patrick gives many suggestions of how we can deepen our spiritual life. Last year, we considered the 7 pillars of the spiritual life suggested by Matthew Kelly. Please consider what you can implement in your life. Today I would like to consider Dare #16 – read the Gospels. The Gospels are the good news – the story of jesus Christ, His teaching and His works of redemption. How can we share the good news, if we do not know the good news? The Gospels speak to us of the life and person of Jesus Christ. It is through the Gospels we really get to know Jesus, to see how He reacts, how He treats people, what he says, what He expects his disciples to do. Everyday, we should read a paragraph or chapter of the scriptures and ask ourselves – what is Jesus doing here? What is He asking me to do? What is the good news I can share with others?
We want our parish to be a “Place of Mission” and a “Place of Welcome” – a place where people hear the good news and grow to love Jesus. Yet before we can do either, we must first be a “Place of Prayer.” We must persevere in prayer for those we love. We must deepen our relationship with Jesus. If we truly love Jesus, our love will be contagious and we will attract many people to Him.