“How can they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone to preach? … As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring the good news!’” (Rom 10:14-15)
These words of St. Paul echo Jesus’ final command as He was about to ascend into heaven: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them … teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Mt 28:19-20)
This task of teaching belongs to every missionary disciple, to every disciple “sent out” to bear witness in the world. That means it belongs to you and me. It is not merely our duty; it is our privilege.
I direct the diocesan Lay Formation Institute (LFI), whose goal is to deepen people’s knowledge and love of Christ and His Church so they can bear joyful and effective witness. One of the LFI participants recently told me a story. She is part of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) team in her parish, helping instruct non-Catholics who want to learn more about our Faith.
“One day,” she said, “a teenage boy showed up at RCIA unannounced and explained that he wanted to become Catholic. Why? He knew a Catholic at his high school and he was impressed with that young man and his family. He could tell it came from their Faith, and he wanted what they had. This young man came again the next week, and he brought a friend. They have been coming ever since, and showing up at Mass,” she said. As she shared this, her eyes and face were radiant with joy.
This is the privilege of being a missionary disciple. We get to share not some dry, dull, academic stuff, but Jesus Christ, the Way, the Truth and the Life. Not every experience will give us goosebumps, but if we can personally tap into the beauty and wonder of what we are teaching, it has a good chance of bearing fruit.
As missionary disciples, where do we teach, where do we share “the Good News”? In our own families, first of all. I was recently making a three-hour drive with one of our young adult sons when he shared, “A lot of my friends see Catholicism as just one of many possible faiths.” I listened (note: always listen), and then I replied, “No other religious founder or prophet claimed to be God as Jesus did—and He did it over and over again.” So, as C.S. Lewis pointed out, Jesus left us with only three options—He is a liar, a lunatic or the Lord. We must pick one, because His claims give us no other choice. For a brilliantly clever, short video on this topic, and many others, visit IMBeggar.com.
As we continued driving, I shared with my son my own personal “story with God.” In the space of about 30 minutes, I told him what my life was like when I tried to run it on my own, and then what it was like when, humbled, I fell on my knees. Not only did he “get it,” but he said it was really helpful.
Some of you teach the Faith in a formal way as a Catholic school teacher, a catechist in parish religious education, a mentor for the confirmation program, a member of the parish RCIA team, etc. If not, and you feel called into parish service, talk to your pastor and offer to help.
But all of us, as missionary disciples sent by Christ, need to be able to articulate at least the basics of our Catholic Faith to our children, our grandchildren, other family members and anyone God puts in our path. And we need to be able to do it in a way that comes from our hearts because we live it, nourished by prayer and the sacraments.
Director of the Office for Ministries and Social Concerns
Published in the July/August 2021 Catholic Life Issue