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Evangelize This Way

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By Marc Massery (Feb 2, 2018)
Sunday, Feb. 4 — Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time
• Job 7:1-4, 6-7
• Responsorial Psalm 147:1-2, 3-4, 5-6
• First Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians 9:16-19, 22-23
• Mark 1:29-39

We've all been there, between the punch bowl and the cheese platter trapped in a boring conversation with the one person at the party who dominates every discussion. We all want to talk about what's most important to us. But there's a discipline to remaining humble in conversation and focusing on what's important to others. A similar discipline applies in evangelization.

In the second reading from the First Letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul describes his method for bringing the most amount of people he can to Christ. He says, "To the weak I became weak, to win over the weak. I have become all things to all, to save at least some" (1 Cor 9:22). Saint Paul, likely the greatest evangelist of all time, based his method of evangelization on becoming "all things to all." This means to listen more than to tell, to cultivate a genuine interest in others, and to see things from the other person's point of view. Saint Paul does not do this for personal gain, but to lead people toward the truth.

The great Jesuit evangelist, St. Francis Xavier, became "all things to all" as he traveled around the world preaching the Gospel. When he preached in the West, he gained the respect of those to whom he preached because of his poverty. But in Japan, where the culture looked down upon poverty, he struggled to inspire conversions. Recognizing what was important to the Japanese, he changed his strategy. In a meeting with a local prince, St. Francis Xavier wore fine clothes and had his fellow missionaries act as servants. This performance helped him gain the respect of the Japanese people, and he was able to bring more to the Gospel.

In the Gospel this Sunday, Jesus puts the needs of his followers first. The apostles worry about Peter's mother-in-law who lay sick in bed with a fever. The Gospel says, "Immediately [the apostles] spoke to Jesus about her" (Mk 1:30). In this passage, Jesus and His apostles had just left the synagogue on the Sabbath. The customary Sabboth meal always happened immediately following this service. But recognizing what was most important to His apostles, Jesus goes right away to heal Peter's mother-in-law.

Jesus places the needs of even complete strangers before His own. The Gospel goes on to say, "[T]hey brought to him all who were ill or possessed by demons. The whole town was gathered at the door. He cured many who were sick with various diseases, and he drove out many demons ..." (Mk 1:32-34). These people did not come to Christ because they loved Him. They did not have the Gospel at the forefront of their minds. Their chief concern was their own suffering. Recognizing their pain, Christ subordinates Himself to their needs and heals them anyway.

Some come to Christ only after everything else that matters falls apart: a divorce, a death in the family, an illness. Our trials force us to realize our great need. But the weakness with which we come to Christ does not deter Him.

Jesus makes Himself approachable and meets us where we are. He becomes "all things to all." He feels the pain of a broken relationship; Judas betrayed Him for 30 pieces of silver. He knows what it's like to be ill; He bore our infirmities. He's experienced the humiliation of poverty; He had no place to lay His head. He feels the anxieties of the rich; He is the King of Kings. He knows the shame of an addict; He was accused of being a drunk. He's suffered the desolation of the depressed; He cried out "forsaken" on the Cross.

In order to love one another, we must make ourselves approachable and recognize what's important to them: their greatest trials and joys. Then we can lead them to understand what should be most important to all of us — the Gospel.

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Catherine - Feb 4, 2018

Inspirational. Thanks. Today is Superbowl Sunday. This can be Divine Mercy Sunday. God bless

Babs - Feb 2, 2018

Timeless message- good reminder about really listening to another person and putting them first. Good job Marc. I always learn from your writing!