A woman named Sally was about to cross a busy city street near a bus station, when an old man stopped her. “Excuse me, Ma’am,” he said, “but I just want to take a moment to thank you.” “Thank me for what?” she asked, and the man explained, “You probably don’t remember me, but I remember you. I used to be a ticket collector at this bus station, and I got to recognize people who rode the bus every day, like you. You always said ‘Good morning’ to me with a cheerful smile, and I knew your smile was genuine and had to come from somewhere inside you. Then one morning I saw you with a Bible in your hand, and I figured that was your secret. So I bought one, too, and it worked: I found Jesus. So, thank you” (Illustrations Unlimited, “Witnessing,” p. 491, #4).
This is a simple example of a Christian sharing her faith, and having it make a difference in someone else’s life. There are many ways we can do this: directly or indirectly, verbally or silently, individually or as part of a group. God wants us to be concerned not only with ourselves and our loved ones, but with everyone we encounter. We’re supposed to make this a better world for one another; we’re also supposed to help others reach the life to come in the Kingdom of Heaven. The Lord calls each of us to grow in His love—and one of the ways we do this is by sharing our faith in Jesus.
An important part of God’s plan for us is sharing our faith, so that through us, others may also come to know the Lord. In the First Book of Samuel, the Old Testament priest Eli was in charge of the Ark of the Covenant—the solemn religious item symbolizing God’s presence with His people; Samuel was his young apprentice. It was a time when many people had forgotten God; even Eli’s own sons were unworthy to carry on their father’s task. That’s why God had announced that He would raise up a prophet —a holy man who would remind people of His laws. Samuel was to be that prophet, and today we see him being called by God. It took a while for the priest Eli to realize what was happening, but when he finally did, he urged Samuel to be open and responsive to the Lord. We may have the same opportunity in our lives, especially with young people entrusted to our care; we must help others listen to God and respond to His call.
In his Letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul speaks on the importance of sexual morality; he was writing in a society almost as immoral as our own—if such a thing can be imagined. By their proper use of sexuality, Christians would stand out, and that’s what Paul wanted—for only a faith recognized as requiring dedication and sacrifice can convince outsiders of its truth. Today we have the opportunity—and the urgent duty—of helping shape society’s values, not only in the area of sexuality, but in every area touching upon human life and dignity. Only if we’re committed to our faith will other people take it seriously.
In the Gospel, John the Baptist immediately pointed out Jesus as the Lamb of God, the Savior, to two of his own disciples, even though it meant they’d leave him. When Jesus invited these two to go with Him, they went without hesitation, and as a result, they recognized and believed in Jesus as the Messiah. Then Andrew, one of the two, summoned his brother Peter and brought him to Jesus. Throughout this passage there’s a theme of generosity. John was generous in sharing his knowledge of Jesus’ identity with two of his disciples. The two disciples were generous with their trust, even though they knew almost nothing about Jesus at that point. When Andrew discovered who Jesus was, he was generous in sharing this good news with Peter. In the same way, we must be generous in sharing our faith, for we can’t really say we love God unless we want other people to know and love Him, too.
In 1930, a disarmament conference was held in London in an effort to reduce the chances of war between the world’s leading naval powers. King George V gave the opening address at the conference, which was relayed by radio to the United States. However, as his speech was about to begin, a cable broke in the New York radio station, leaving millions of listeners without a sound. A junior mechanic at the station, recognizing the importance of the moment, solved the problem by picking up both ends of the cable, allowing 250 volts of electricity to pass through him. This did him no lasting harm, but did allow the king’s message to flow through him and reach millions of listeners (Nelson’s Complete Book of Stories, Illustrations, & Quotes, p. 784). Few of us will be called to do anything quite that dramatic or hair-raising, but all of us are expected to let God’s truth and grace flow through us—for it’s entirely possible that our encounter with someone may be the only opportunity he or she has to see the Gospel in action, and the only time that person experiences a personal invitation to turn to Jesus.
We must urge others to listen to God, as Eli instructed Samuel to do. We must live by high moral standards, as Paul reminded the Corinthians. We must imitate John the Baptist by pointing out Jesus to others; we must also have the courage to follow the Lord, as the two disciples did, and then we must share our personal knowledge of Jesus, as Andrew did with his brother Peter. These are all ways of evangelizing, or sharing our faith. Our good example, our simple acts of kindness, our prayers for those who do not believe, can all make a difference in someone else’s life; our genuine concern for our neighbor, our efforts to help those in need, and our willingness to respect the dignity of everyone we meet, can bear witness to Jesus’ presence in the world.
It must have made Sally’s day when the retired ticket collector thanked her for her Christian example. It will be a far more wonderful experience for us if someone comes up to us in Heaven and says “Thank you for your Christian witness; it’s one of the reasons I’m here now”—that will certainly be a joy that lasts for all eternity. God’s Good News is meant to be shared. If we refuse to do this, we’re being selfish, but if we want others to know Jesus as we do, we’re showing that He truly is our Master and Lord.
REVEREND JOSEPH M. ESPER is a priest of the Archdiocese of Detroit and pastor of Immaculate Conception parish in Anchorville, Michigan. He received his Master of Divinity degree from St. John’s Provincial Seminary in Plymouth, Michigan. Through the years, Father Joe has lectured at Marian conferences, appeared on EWTN, spoken on Catholic radio, and written more than a dozen articles for This Rock, The Priest, Homiletic and Pastoral Review, and other publications. He is also the author of numerous books, including Saintly Solutions, More Saintly Solutions, After the Darkness, Lessons from the Lives of the Saints, and Why Is God Punishing Me? In addition to Amazon, many of his most recent books are available through Queenship Publishing.