??HOW TO EVANGELIZE.? The angel of the Lord spoke to…
??HOW TO EVANGELIZE.?
The angel of the Lord spoke to Philip saying, ‘Be ready to set out at noon along the road that goes from Jerusalem down to Gaza, the desert road.’ So he set off on his journey. Now it happened that an Ethiopian had been on pilgrimage to Jerusalem; he was a eunuch and an officer at the court of the kandake, or queen, of Ethiopia, and was in fact her chief treasurer. He was now on his way home; and as he sat in his chariot he was reading the prophet Isaiah. The Spirit said to Philip, ‘Go up and meet that chariot.’ When Philip ran up, he heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, ‘Do you understand what you are reading?’ ‘How can I’ he replied ‘unless I have someone to guide me?’ So he invited Philip to get in and sit by his side. Now the passage of scripture he was reading was this:
Like a sheep that is led to the slaughter-house,
like a lamb that is dumb in front of its shearers,
like these he never opens his mouth.
He has been humiliated and has no one to defend him.
Who will ever talk about his descendants,
since his life on earth has been cut short!
The eunuch turned to Philip and said, ‘Tell me, is the prophet referring to himself or someone else?’ Starting, therefore, with this text of scripture Philip proceeded to explain the Good News of Jesus to him.
Further along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, ‘Look, there is some water here; is there anything to stop me being baptised?’ He ordered the chariot to stop, then Philip and the eunuch both went down into the water and Philip baptised him. But after they had come up out of the water again Philip was taken away by the Spirit of the Lord, and the eunuch never saw him again but went on his way rejoicing. Philip found that he had reached Azotus and continued his journey proclaiming the Good News in every town as far as Caesarea. Acts 8:26-40
_*The Word of the Lord.*_
_Psalm 65: 8-9,16-17, 20_
_*R. Cry out with joy to God, all the earth.*_
O peoples, bless our God,
let the voice of his praise resound,
of the God who gave life to our souls
and kept our feet from stumbling./R.
Come and hear, all who fear God.
I will tell what he did for my soul:
to him I cried aloud,
with high praise ready on my tongue./R.
Blessed be God
who did not reject my prayer
nor withhold his love from me./R.
The Lord, who hung for us upon the tree,
has risen from the tomb.
_*JOHN 6: 44-51*_
Jesus said to the crowd:
‘No one can come to me
unless he is drawn by the Father who sent me,
and I will raise him up at the last day.
It is written in the prophets:
They will all be taught by God,
and to hear the teaching of the Father,
and learn from it,
is to come to me.
Not that anybody has seen the Father,
except the one who comes from God:
he has seen the Father.
I tell you most solemnly,
everybody who believes has eternal life.
‘I am the bread of life.
Your fathers ate the manna in the desert
and they are dead;
but this is the bread that comes down from heaven,
so that a man may eat it and not die.
I am the living bread which has come down from heaven.
Anyone who eats this bread will live for ever;
and the bread that I shall give is my flesh,
for the life of the world.’
The Gospel of the Lord
HOW TO EVANGELIZE?.
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Acts 8:26-40; Ps 66:8-9, 16-17, 20; Jn 6:44-51 ]
In the gospel, Jesus proclaimed Himself as the Bread of Life. “I am the living bread which has come down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live for ever; and the bread that I shall give is my flesh, for the life of the world.” Jesus has come to offer us His Word and His Flesh so that we can find life. His Word is His Spirit and His Flesh is His Body. Both Word and Flesh is Jesus in His entirety, who came to give Himself to us. Enlightened by His Word and encountering Him in person, we are transformed by His presence. Only Jesus who has seen the Father can teach us who God is. “They will all be taught by God, and to hear the teaching of the Father, and learn from it, is to come to me. Not that anybody has seen the Father, except the one who comes from God: he has seen the Father.”
Jesus said, “I tell you most solemnly, everybody who believes has eternal life.” So how does one come to believe in Jesus? The truth is that faith in Jesus is primarily the work of grace. This is what the Lord said, “No one can come to me unless he is drawn by the Father who sent me, and I will raise him up at the last day.” We must be drawn by the Father and that depends on His grace. This explains why some people do not know the Lord. Many do not have the opportunity to meet Him or come to know about Him. Many are searching for the meaning and purpose of life. Unfortunately, the noise of the world silences the hunger of the heart. Conversion is really not the work of man but the work of God. But God’s grace comes through His messengers.
The process of evangelization must first begin with a messenger sent by God. St Paul asked. “But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (Rom 10:14f) So we have Philip, the deacon, who was sent by the Holy Spirit to the Ethiopian to instruct him in the faith. All of us are called to be like Philip, to be evangelizers of the Good News. Unless someone announces the Good News, they will not be able to be here.
How can we be true and effective evangelizers? Firstly, we must use every occasion in life to speak about Jesus and to announce the Kerygma, His passion, death, and resurrection whenever the opportunity arises. We can be at the bus stop or on the bus or Mass Rapid Transit train, at our workplace, or in the mall. Anywhere and everywhere, any time is the right place and time to bear witness to the Lord. Of course, we must open our eyes and ears to see whether there is an opening for us to evangelize. Philip was such a person. He was attentive to the prompting of the Holy Spirit. The angel spoke to Philip, “Be ready to set out at noon along the road that goes from Jerusalem down to Gaza, the desert road.” Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go up and meet that chariot.” At every step of his life, Philip was always docile and sensitive to the movements of the Spirit. Thus, he was able to seize every opportunity to evangelize. We too must be alert to the Spirit’s prompting.
Secondly, Philip took the initiative to offer assistance in a non-threatening manner. He asked the Ethiopian, “Do you understand what you are reading?” If we want to evangelize, we must take the first step to open the ears and hearts of our listeners. But we can do this only if we do not appear to be intrusive or aggressive but gentle in our approach. He struck a conversation with the Ethiopian. So too, to share the Good News, we must be humble and courageous to approach someone and begin the conversation. Philip did not force his kindness on the Ethiopian but waited to be invited. Indeed, “the Ethiopian “invited Philip to get in and sit by his side.” But we must show genuine interest in others.
Thirdly, Philip engaged him in a dialogue. He listened. The Eunuch shared the passage he was reading from the prophet Isaiah. “Like a sheep that is led to the slaughter-house, like a lamb that is done in front of its shearers, like these he never opens his mouth. He has been humiliated and has no one to defend him. Who will ever talk about his descendants, since his life on earth has been cut short!” And Philip listened attentively without interrupting. He was patient in listening. Only when he was again invited to speak, did he explain to the Court Official the meaning of the text. “The eunuch turned to Philip and said, ‘Tell me, is the prophet referring to himself or someone else?’” We must never be too quick to offer an answer until we are asked, so we don’t appear to be too presumptuous.
Fourthly, Philip shows us that proclamation of the Good News is simply making sense of life events for people. “Starting, therefore, with this text of scripture Philip proceeded to explain the Good News of Jesus to him.” We must use the scripture for the purpose of eliciting inspiration and connecting the events of daily life and in the world with how God is working His grace in the world. Proclaiming the Good News is more than just dishing out quotations from the bible but rather to cite the scriptures in such a way that could make sense for people who are seeking a fuller meaning in life. The Good News must truly be presented as good news to those who hear it. Connecting with the Word of God is the task of the preacher and the evangelizer. Otherwise, we are simply proselytizing, not enlightening.
Fifthly, the evangelizer must be self-effacing. He is not there to present himself or announce himself but Jesus. This is why the evangelizer must always be ready and humble enough to listen to the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Without His help and grace, there will be no true announcement of the Good News. Philip was available to the Holy Spirit. He was like John the Baptist. The latter said, “The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. For this reason my joy has been fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease.” (Jn 3:29f) So when Philip had given the Good News to the Ethiopian Eunuch, he “was taken away by the Spirit of the Lord, and the eunuch never saw him again but went on his way rejoicing. Philip found that he had reached Azotus and continued his journey proclaiming the Good News in every town.” It didn’t matter to Philip whether the Eunuch remembered him or not. Most likely, he would never meet him again. But what was more important was that the Eunuch found the Lord and spread the Good News in turn to others in his homeland. Philip was contented to have played his part in the transmission of the Good News. That the Ethiopian was filled with joy at knowing Jesus, was his reward. He did not need any recognition, praise and honour, unlike many of us when we claim to be working for God!
Yet, even if we have a great preacher, at the end of the day, the recipient must be cooperative to the grace of God. St Paul posited the problem of disbelief. “But not all have obeyed the good news; for Isaiah says, ‘Lord, who has believed our message?’ But I ask, have they not heard? Indeed they have; for ‘Their voice has gone out to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world.’ But of Israel he says, ‘All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people.’” (Rom 10:16, 17, 18, 21) So it was because of pride and disobedience that they could not receive the good news.
Faith is once again a grace of God. This is always the starting point. “No one can come to me unless he is drawn by the Father who sent me.” But we must respond to God’s grace like the Ethiopian who was docile, humble and was sincerely searching for the truth. Without a docile heart, the grace of God would not force the Good News upon us. Of course, even the act of responding to the gospel is itself the grace of God. We need to be enlightened, to be touched and to be moved. Only God’s grace and His love can stir up that response from our hearts. His overwhelming love can transform Saul to Paul, sinners to saints. We too must, therefore, pray for the grace of conversion, not only for those not baptized but even for ourselves so that we will encounter the Lord’s love more deeply as we listen to His Word and receive Him in the Eucharist. Prayer is the way to receive His grace!
The Lord be with you.