Do Not Dispense of History


It is a fun and fascinating fact that God doesn’t need history to communicate Himself to man. After all, His messages can be absorbed in a moment, and His presence can alter a life in the blink of an eye.


And yet, for all of that, the moment that God asks man to participate in the task of making Jesus known to another, history is indispensable.


In fact, becoming an evangelist demands that we allow our stories to converge with others, to share a mutual history, and to become friends.


I would even go so far as to say—and I don’t think this is controversial in the least—that we cannot truly cultivate a spirit of evangelization without at the same time cultivating authentic friendships.


But friendships take time ...

Whatever the case may be, evangelizing through friendship allows the seed a much greater chance at consistent growth because we are there for the complete story, and not just the end of it.

Yes, friendships, real, personal, and valuable friendships (not the kind you find on social media) take time to develop.


Why?


Because friends are not simply concerned with what comes next but with what came before.


Friends care that the other was abused or neglected or wounded in the past.

Friends care that religion and faith were first presented to the other as silly or superstitious or the opium of the masses.


The other’s history now matters and greatly so, not because it can be wielded like a weapon but because it can be seen through like a lens. It helps us to choose the right words and to bring the correct balm so that a past can begin to heal through this unique and necessary form of love.


Why then do we neglect it?


Our lack of appreciation for the role of friendship when evangelizing may have something to do with those wonderful parables that Jesus told us. After all, who hasn’t imagined evangelization being something like a rescue mission, where the wounded and disoriented sheep is thrown over the shepherd’s shoulder and safely brought back to the fold.


Or perhaps evangelization immediately conjures up the image of finding someone on the road, beaten, penniless, and left for dead. Here too, we would have a real task to perform, a life that needs saving today.


These and other parables focus on the immediacy of evangelization, the necessary and urgent call from God to go out and do what cannot be put off to another day.


But notice, these parables do not seem too concerned with friendship. In fact, on the surface it appears as though evangelization is something that can be accomplished without becoming friends at all.


Of course, there is some truth to that.


As evangelists we have to be comfortable with speaking the truth in love long before others count us as fellows on their journey. We must be willing to heal, rescue, and recover even when friendship is nowhere to be found.


And yet, we know from experience that sometimes (or dare I say, most of the time) the recovery of that same individual to whom we have become a Good Samaritan will take many months if not years.


And that is why the parable of the sower is so important.


Of all the parables, the evangelist needs to reflect upon the parable of the sower for the simple reason that it acknowledges that conversion is not simply a matter of one event. For though the hearer may initially accept the Word, there are still plenty of dangers that lie in wait for him or her.


The hearer may forget the initial experience that brought him to God.

She may suddenly find that the cares of the world are far more pressing.

He may even distort the original message that he received and seek to live out a kind of anti-gospel.


Whatever the case may be, evangelizing through friendship allows the seed a much greater chance at consistent growth because we are there for the complete story, and not just the end of it.


Our history becomes intertwined with another’s.


And because this is so, their wounds, their fears, their loves, their interests, and even dangers to their faith (all things we come to learn through authentic friendship), are present to us in a more lucid way.


This is what many Catholics are missing.


Knowledge of the Bible is essential, just as are apologetics and communication strategies—that much should be obvious. But without friendships, those who make gargantuan efforts to evangelize will still struggle.




in Christ,


patrick

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