Monday, February 23, 2015

How do I evangelize?

As we saw the Sunday before last (see "Who can make me whole again?") sin is deadlier than leprosy, as well as deadlier than anyone or anything else that can kill the body. We all need healing. The kind of healing Jesus came to give is the kind He gives to the paralytic man whose friends, at the beginning of the second chapter of St Mark's Gospel (2:1-12), lowered him down in front of the Lord, who then said to the paralyzed and bedridden man, "Child, your sins are forgiven" (Mark 2:5). It was only in order to demonstrate that He possesses the power to forgive sin that He physically healed the man, saying, "'But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins on earth' - he said to the paralytic, 'I say to you, rise, pick up your mat, and go home'" (Mark 2:10-11).

We read about scenes like the one in which Jesus healed the paralytzed man throughout, not just the Synoptics (i.e., Matthew, Mark, and Luke), but all the Gospels. Another example that stands out is Jesus casting demons from the Gerasene demoniac in the eighth chapter of St Luke's Gospel. This poor man was naked and "did not live in a house, but lived among the tombs" (Luke 8:27b). When Jesus stepped out of the boat, which made its way across the Sea of Galilee from Galilee to Gerasa, He was greeted by this tormented man. Just as in the synagogue, the Lord is addressed by one of the demons who possessed the man. The demon who recognized Jesus, greeted Him saying, "What have you to do with me, Jesus, son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me!" Jesus, after a brief interrogation, then proceeded to cast them out of the man and into a herd of swine, thus restoring the man to his right mind.

Jesus' manifest power over the spirits caused the Gerasenes to fear Him. As a result of their fear, they asked Him to leave them, which He then set about doing. But the man who Jesus healed asked to come with Him. Jesus told the man, "Return home and recount what God has done for you" (Luke 8:39a).

This man, formerly crazed, out of his mind, who lived naked, dirty, alone, and often chained up, but was now restored, heeded what the Lord told him to do, apparently without complaining, or remonstrating with Jesus: "The man went off and proclaimed throughout the whole town what Jesus had done for him" (Luke 8:39b).

Telling others what Jesus has done for us is the very essence of evangelization, which we often seek to reduce to apologetics, to mere arguments. In a homily he gave back in 2010, George Niederauer, now Archbishop-emeritus of San Francisco, recounted a story about a British working man who was in the habit of drinking all of his wages at the bar, as recounted by Dr. William Barclay, a Presbyterian Scripture scholar, who authored an invaluable, multi-volume commentary on the New Testament:
Consequently, he was behind in the rent, his wife had begun to pawn their furniture, and there was little food on the table. One day he went to a Christian temperance meeting and turned his life around. He stopped drinking. Now there was food on the table and money for the rent. His family was delighted. However, his co-workers were not; they had lost their drinking buddy. They teased him endlessly, and one day one of them asked him sarcastically "Do you really believe Jesus Christ turned water into wine?" The man answered, "I don’t know about that, but if you come over to my house I’ll show you how he turned beer into furniture!"
Recalling and recounting what Jesus has done and continues to do for me strikes me as a very good Lenten practice.

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