During the Christmas season, many of us will gather with family members who have stopped practicing the faith. We might feel powerless and wonder what we can do to light a spark within the one who has checked out. “What does God want me to do?” Sometimes our previous attempts have fallen on deaf ears.
Old methods no longer work. We cajole; we appeal to their sense of right and wrong; we proselytize; we recite teaching and doctrines. The sad irony is that if such doctrines and teaching meant anything to them they would not have left in the first place.
“Who am I to judge?”
Pope Francis has set the tone for how we must approach and evangelize such folks. The first step is to leave our judgments at the door. A theologian once said it is God’s job to save them—not ours. God loves our non-practicing relatives as much as we do, and it is God’s job to touch their hearts.
That being said, there are seven approaches we can take and mistakes we can avoid.
- Accept the persons we hope to evangelize for who they are. Love them in spite of their behavior and their beliefs. Do not judge them. Let God do the judging.
- Do not cajole. Do not threaten eternal damnation, the loss of their souls, God’s displeasure, and most of all, do not express your intense disappointment in them. Again, there is a Savior and it is not us! Entrust them to God’s providential care.
- Take an interest in them—their interests, their joys, their sorrows. Try to find out what gives meaning to their lives. What are their deepest desires and dreams for their future? Someone once said that God resides in the deepest desires of our hearts. Build upon what gives meaning to their lives and help them see the hand of God in those dreams.
- Be a model of Christ’s loving compassion. Let compassion flow from your pores. We are privileged to share a Gospel of attraction. The single biggest factor for the spread of Christianity in ancient times was the love Christians showed to others. Love your neighbor, love those who seem unlovable to most of the world. That will say more about your faith than anything you can say with words!
If you’re joyful, let it show
- Be joyful! Let joy radiate from you. We can be joyful even in the midst of sorrow since we have a God who lives within and who walks with us in the challenges of life. Do not hesitate to share that joy with everyone with whom you come in contact.
- Witness when appropriate and when the moment is right. Look for those God moments when the person you are evangelizing is ready to hear your story. “You seem to be struggling right now, can I share what has given meaning to my life in similar moments?” Use their experience of pain, frustration, meaninglessness, joy or sorrow to prompt a conversation about the action of God in human affairs—particularly our personal human affairs.
Be careful not to witness in a triumphant sort of way with a subtext that reads, “If only you would believe as I do, you could experience “my” experience and thus be a committed Catholic just as I am.” Humbly share an experience of failure that led to new life, an experience of cross that led to resurrection, an experience of sorrow that led to joy and place it all at the feet of the living Christ.
- Pray, pray, and pray some more! Commit time every day to pray for the person you wish to evangelize. That will do more than anything you can say or do! Entrust them to God but be diligent in your efforts to soak them in prayer.
Ask God to lead you or lead someone else to reach out and put the loving hand of God into the hand of those we love who may be lost, misguided, or searching for meaning in their lives.
May Christmas joy fill each and every one of us during this holy season.
See also these related articles:
- Be a dreamer this Advent
- Simbang Gabi: How to put stars in the eyes of your RCIA participants this Advent
- 5 ways to lead your RCIA participants from the North Pole to Jesus Christ this Christmas
- Sing these 6 carols in RCIA for strong holiday catechesis
- Is your RCIA team ready for seekers this Christmas?
“first family meal at 153 Utah” by Leah Gregg | Flickr