By Shannan McQuade
In many places throughout the Gospels, we are reminded of our mission as baptized Christians to share the Good News to all ends of the earth. We hear in the Gospel of Matthew shortly before the Ascension, Jesus tells his disciples, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Mt 28:19-20). It was Jesus’ desire that the very church he founded would be shared to all corners of the earth.
Beyond the mere preaching of the Gospel, Jesus teaches early on that it is through our witness that others can come to learn about the Good News of the Gospel. We as baptized Christians need to be the ones who are sharing the joy and the goodness of our faith with those who we are surrounded by. However, there are times when conversations are necessary to communicate the truth and the beauty of the faith.
The most authentic conversations about faith have been the ones that happen organically. With an organic conversation, there comes a certain openness in which the questions flow freely and without judgment. However, this is first dependent on an established, trusting relationship. Through this relationship, a space is created in which we are able to be witnesses to the joy of Christian living, and the other is able to experience our witness and ask questions as they arise.
When we approach discussing the faith with strangers, there are a few steps we must take first. First, we need to establish a genuineness about ourselves that shows them that we care and are listening. Second, we need to approach the conversation in a manner in which the stranger has the space to freely share their personal experience with God and his Church.
Third, before preaching the Gospel to them, we first need to know where they are in their own faith journey. This helps us to gauge where they are in their relationship with the Church and allows us to approach with compassion and understanding. Approaching with compassion and understanding just furthers the foundation of trust in which they feel they have the freedom to ask questions.
What if I don’t know the answer?
When it comes to discussing the faith with strangers or our family members, there is often a certain fear that we are either not qualified to speak on behalf of the Church or that we may not have all of the answers. While I can’t tell you these fears are not legitimate, I can reassure you of a few things.
First of all, through the graces gifted to us in the sacraments, we are empowered to share the Gospel. As I’ve said, it is through our witness that we share the joys of Christian living. This is simply done by sharing the ways that we have encountered the goodness of God in our daily lives. Taking a step back to examine those times in which we have known of his love for us encourages us to share those times with others. Soon, people begin to see the tangible joy that Christians have through Christ and begin to desire that same joy.
Secondly, there is someone who knows the answer. It is perfectly acceptable to tell someone who may have questions about the faith that you do not know the answer. But, be encouraged to seek out the answer yourself and share it. There are plenty of knowledgeable people in our circles who could either provide the answer or point us in the right direction.
Truth and beauty will always win out, but do not be discouraged if the person you are having a conversation with does not jump on board with what you are sharing right away. Continue to carry yourself with the truth and beauty of the Church in your heart, and your witness will always speak volumes.
Cast out fear
Finally, when sharing the faith, it can produce several fears in our hearts—fears of being wrong, fears of inadequacy, fears of rejection, and so many more. However, I want to encourage you that the Lord sent the Holy Spirit to guide us always. Through the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation, we receive the fullness of the Holy Spirit and the graces that guide us each and every day. As I was encouraged as a Confirmation student, discern which gift of the Holy Spirit you most need in your life, and daily ask for an outpouring of that gift.
As a college student working on the Benedictine College ministry team, at training our chaplain encouraged us to begin each day with a simple invitation to the Lord to bring to us those he wanted us to encounter that day: “Lord, interrupt my day.” That was it. That simple prayer inviting the Lord to interrupt our plans with his so that we may bring his joy to those we met that day.
This summer, many of our youth spend time learning about what it means to be bold in the faith at Discipleship Camp (D-Camp). Throughout the week, they reflected on the life of St. Peter, and specifically the passage from the Gospel of Matthew where Peter declares Jesus as the Christ. “He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter said in reply, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God’” (Mt 16:15-17). Peter had a personal encounter with Jesus and through his abundant faith, he came to understand the truth of who Jesus was. He in turn, with boldness in trust in the Father, shares with his peers that truth.
We have all encountered Jesus in some way in our lives, probably for most of us, on the daily. It is our duty to boldly step out and share those encounters and to be open to questions about the love we have for our faith. Mary’s last recorded words in Scripture come from the Gospel of John at the Wedding at Cana. She says to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you” (Jn 2: 5). We are reminded by our Blessed Mother that we must do what he tells us, and that is to share the Gospel and its truth and beauty.
I believe all too often we look at those who preach to the masses and write ourselves off because we could never reach that large of an audience or we don’t have a radical story to share. However, our audience is composed of those we encounter daily in the “mundane” of life. And our radical story that we have to share is salvation won for us on the Cross.