Evangelization and Prayer

Evangelization and Prayer

The Catechism of the Catholic Church notes that the effect of the reception of the Sacrament of Confirmation “is the special outpouring of the Holy Spirit as once granted to the apostles on the day of Pentecost.” (1302)

The sacrament brings an increase and deepening of baptismal grace which “gives us a special strength of the Holy Spirit to spread and defend the faith by word and action as true witnesses of Christ, to confess the name of Christ boldly, and never to be ashamed of the Cross.” (1303, 119 Cf. Council of Florence (1439): DS 1319; LG 11; 12.)

Before the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the remaining 11 Apostles were timid and fearful, hiding out behind locked doors “for fear of the Jews.” (John 20:19) Then, at Pentecost, “there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were. Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them.” (Acts 2:2-3)

The Apostles were transformed by the power of the Spirit. Peter stood up, the leader of the Eleven in the nascent Church, and preached Christ crucified, and, “those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand persons were added that day.” (Acts 2:41)

A single homily preached through the power of the Holy Spirit and three thousand souls were converted to Christ! As Jesus explained to His disciples before His Ascension, once they had received the Holy Spirit, “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

The Apostles indeed did become bold witnesses for Christ, with 10 of the Eleven suffering martyrdom.  The work of the Church has continued for 2,000 years, and today, from those original Eleven, there are more than a billion Roman Catholics in the world!

You are called through your Baptism and Confirmation to share in the power of the Holy Spirit and, like Peter and the Apostles at Pentecost, you can experience amazing things in your life. Say “yes” to Jesus, and allow the Holy Spirit to empower you. Mary experienced the Spirit’s empowerment during the Annunciation, when the Angel Gabriel told her, “… ‘The holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you…’” (Luke 1:35)

I have found when we say “yes” to the Holy Spirit, everything changes. We are compelled to share the Good News of Jesus with others. We are called to be evangelists for Jesus Christ and, as Christ described Christians during His Sermon on the Mount, be “the light of the world.” (Matthew 5:14) In our times, the popes have called us to participate in a New Evangelization. Pope St. John Paul II said, “No believer in Christ, no institution of the Church can avoid this supreme duty: to proclaim Christ to all peoples.” What many people do not realize is the entire purpose of the Catholic Church is to bring the Good News of Jesus to the entire world. In other words, to evangelize is the purpose of the Church and our purpose.

SEVEN STEPS

Here are seven steps to help you to participate in the Church’s work of evangelization as you become more fully “the light of the world”:

(1) Have a desire to share your faith. This seems obvious, but most of us don’t get past the first step. If we seek, we will find. If we desire God’s will, it will be given to us. In my experience, sharing our faith and the love of Jesus transforms our attitudes and moods in all circumstances. Are we open to at least trying?

Are there sick in your parish, or among your family and friends? Do you know people in the hospital?  Of course!  I am sure that most of us who have been in the hospital greatly appreciate those who took the time to come see us. If we felt loved by being visited by people when we are sick, we can be assured that others will appreciate our love when we see them, especially if we pray over them! I believe all of us are called to visit the sick. 

(2) Enhance your relationship with Jesus. Do you know Jesus in your heart? Do you communicate throughout the day in a two-way exchange? So many people say they never hear from God. One of my favorite saint stories involves St. Joan of Arc before the Queen of France who asks her, “How can a peasant girl hear from God and the Queen of France does not?” Joan answered, “Your highness, God is communicating to you all day long, but you are not listening.”

To be in relationship, we must know each other. God has not left us orphans. He promised us He would guide us to all truth. We must expect Him to talk to us in the stillness of prayer, through Scripture, other people, songs, quiet whispers and in many other ways. The more we are open to God’s voice, the more we will hear Him.

Participation in Mass, praying the rosary, adoration, reading Scripture and having a Holy Hour alone with the Lord are things that draw us closer to Jesus and allow us to hear Him more clearly.

(3) Become the personification of the love of Jesus. I love what St. Peter says about loving one another:

“Love one another intensely from a [pure] heart.” (1 Peter 1:22)

“Above all, let your love for one another be intense, because love covers a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8)

Peter remembered the lesson of Jesus, regarding the sinful woman who bathed Jesus’ feet with her tears and anointed them with ointment: “…her many sins have been forgiven; hence, she has shown great love.“ (Luke 7:47)

How do we love God and each other intensely? We do by sharing our faith. By letting people know how much God loves them and that, as written in Romans 8, nothing will separate them from the love of God.

(4) Obey the Lord. One evening on a flight from New Hampshire to Philadelphia, I was sitting in a window seat next to an empty center seat. A woman occupied the aisle seat. I felt the Lord’s presence in a profound way, instructing me to talk to the woman.

I was reading my Bible, the flight was late at night, and I was tired. I resisted at first, but suddenly I sneezed. The woman looked at me and said, “God bless you!”

I felt a “bell” sound off. I turned to the woman and asked, “Are you going home?”  “Yes,” she answered. “Yes. I am going home to see my husband and daughter. They think I was at a business conference, but I was with my lover.”

Oh my! In seconds, the reality of the miracle about to happen became apparent. I looked up to the sky and asked the Lord, “Why have You gotten me involved in this conversation?”

I had no idea what to say. I prayed for words from the Holy Spirit to guide me. I said to the woman, “Tell me more about what has happened.” The woman explained her belief that cheating on a spouse was a normal and common behavior, but it was okay with her because her husband ignored her.

She looked at my Bible and said, “I see you are a Christian; so am I. However, Jesus doesn’t expect us to be perfect.’

Hard to believe. She didn’t know me, yet she was pouring out intimate details of her life. The Holy Spirit at work!

I prayed more. Then I looked at her and smiled and asked this question: “Does the relationship with your boyfriend bring you closer to God?” She looked at me and her eyes widened. “Interesting you should ask that,” she remarked. “I never pray with my boyfriend, but pray often with my husband.”

I said, “One more question. Does this relationship bring you closer to your husband?” She looked at me with tears in her eyes and said, “This is so much like Jesus.” She explained between her tears, “Jesus doesn’t come at you with a brick, but with a feather. You are my feather.”

At that point, the landing gear was down, bells were going off, and I am holding her hand, leading her through a “Sinner’s Prayer.” She told me she planned to leave her boyfriend and return totally to Jesus and her husband! Praise God! Now and forever!

(5) Embrace the power of the Holy Spirit. Miracle after miracle occurs when we simply say “Yes” to Christ’s love. Many times, when the power of the Lord flows and people feel the love of God, they are healed spiritually, mentally and physically. 

St Augustine led a worldly and sinful life before he converted, in part due to the prayers of his long-suffering mother, St. Monica. Reflecting on his conversion to the Lord, which took place in his 30s, Augustine wrote, “I came to love you too late, Oh Beauty, so ancient and so new. Yes, I came to love you too late … You called to me and cried to me; you broke the bowl of my deafness; you uncovered your beams, and threw them at me; you rejected my blindness; you blew a fragrant wind on me, and I sucked in my breath and wanted you; I tasted you and now I want you as I want food and water; you touched me, and I have been burning ever since to have your peace.”

(6) “Bloom where you are planted.” You needn’t go looking for people to share your faith with, they will come to you. The power of God is one of the most convincing things that can ever happen to us. We see His love, and it changes our lives!

(7) Be a person of invitation. Jesus is constantly looking for us to evangelize, a Greek word which means to tell the Good News. Our Good News is the foundation of God’s love for us in so many ways. It must be proclaimed, and we must be the messengers. We must be open to His calling and guidance. God’s calling and guidance can come anytime and anywhere—in restaurants or stores, on airplanes, in the streets, outside of church, even at sporting events! Every time I am called, I feel God’s miracles and the presence of the Lord. Let us be like Peter and the other Apostles on Pentecost: full of zeal, full of the power of the Holy Spirit and on fire to convert the world to Christ!

Deacon Steve Greco goes into greater detail about Evangelization and Prayer and related topics in his 2019 book Miracles Through Forgiveness. Purchase a copy at his Spirit Filled Hearts Ministry website online store at www.spiritfilledhearts.org

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Written by
Deacon Steve Greco

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