At a recent conference, I had the opportunity to participate in “street evangelization.” At a hotel near O’Hare airport, our group boarded a bus and headed to Millennium Park. On the way, we received instructions: “Go out by two, approach an individual, and ask if he or she would like prayer or is in need of a miracle. If opposed, wish the person a good day and move on. If he or she is open, visit and eventually pray with or over the person.” Our final instruction: “Pray the Lord will send you to individuals who could use grace and is in need of prayer.’” Everyone on the bus fell into silent prayer. When we arrived at our designation, we left our belongings on the bus and stepped into the heart of Chicago. And then the bus drove off, leaving us a bit shell shocked.
I wonder if the Twelve felt this anxiety when sent out by Jesus: “He instructed them to take nothing for the journey but a walking stick—no food, no sack, no money in their belts.” They were sent—vulnerable to being rejected, ignored, or ridiculed. They were sent—completely dependent upon God’s Spirit guidance and provision. None of us is given enough instruction, experience, or skills to evangelize. None of us is fully equipped or worthy to be sent by God. But like the prophet Amos, we are commanded: “Go, prophesy to my people... ” With the grace of Baptism, we go out to share the good news of God’s love with others. Though it may sound simple, evangelization can be intimidating. Street evangelization seems particularly daunting; yet it’s often easier evangelizing strangers than friends, co-workers, or family members.
As parents/grandparents, evangelization begins at home by naming grace—God’s merciful presence—day in and day out. Evangelization begins with genuine love and concern, and occurs when rocking a sick baby, taking a meal to a neighbor who is sick, hosting a young couple for dinner, or inviting another family to join a small faith group. We begin by asking God to send us to those in need and then risk sharing the message of Jesus’ love. And when our own son or daughter doesn’t respond, we pray the Spirit sends another Christian into their lives. “God loves you.” “God forgives you.” “God desires for you to be set free.”
So, how did our “street evangelization” work out? Truthfully, it often felt awkward. However, we also experienced grace-filled encounters. We noticed a young woman, sitting alone, dark sunglasses covering her eyes. We greeted her and asked how she was doing. “Fine.” Would you like prayer? “No.” After a moment, she whispered: “Well, I just found out my grandmother died. My boss told me to get out of the office and find a place to cry.” Then tears flooded her cheeks; we sat with her in silence. “My grandmother had a beautiful life and she was very religious. Yes, I would appreciate a prayer for my entire family.” After we prayed, she voiced: “I’m calling my mom to let her know Grandma sent someone to be with me.” That’s Jesus, God in the flesh: someone who sits with us, cries with us, and gives us hope. Did we have Jesus’ authority over unclean spirits? I don’t know. But I do know this young woman’s spirit was lighter after our encounter. That’s evangelization – that’s good news!
How will you evangelize your children/grandchildren?
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The blog on this page presents reflections on the Sunday readings through the lens of a parent/grandparent, aiding leaders of the domestic church in their vital task as “first heralds” or “first preachers” of the Good News in the home.