Facing insurmountable odds, the first Christians staged a David-versus-Goliath victory. If we look at it from a purely rational standpoint, we would be simply amazed that they were able to accomplish all that they did. And from a spiritual standpoint, we would agree with the great rabbi Gamaliel, who told the Sanhedrin: “If this endeavor or this activity is of human origin, it will destroy itself. But if it comes from God, you will not be able to destroy them” (Acts 5:38-39). Clearly, their work was “from God.” They simply could not be stopped!
So where does that leave us some two thousand years later? Like the first believers, we too face seemingly insurmountable odds. We see a world that is growing further and further away from Jesus. Church attendance is declining. Basic truths like the resurrection of Christ, the sacredness of life, and the call to the poor are being denied. Fewer and fewer children are growing up with any sense of connection to church—or to the Lord, for that matter.
As grim as it all sounds, we need to remember Jesus’ promise that the gates of hell will not prevail against the church (Matthew 16:18). When God is in the picture, there is always hope. But the reality is that we are called to be that hope in this world. The Holy Spirit is asking all of us to take the message of salvation and new life into the world. So let’s look to the first Christians to see how they did it—and to see what we can learn from them.
What about Us? The first question we should ask ourselves is: “What is my disposition?” The apostles and first believers had their fair share of responsibilities and challenges. Most of them had children to feed, homes to maintain, and jobs to keep. But even as they fulfilled all these obligations, they managed to keep Jesus as their first love and their top priority. They sought to be led by the Holy Spirit so that they could win their neighbors to Christ.
If these first believers, who didn’t have the benefit of centuries of Christian history or church teaching, were so zealous to build up the church, how much more should we be prepared to tell others about the wisdom and salvation of God?
Like them, we too have been sanctified and cleansed. Like them, we too are without spot or wrinkle in Christ (Ephesians 5:26-27). This is what the angels see, and even they rejoice and are in awe over us. Clearly, we are not just ordinary, earthbound people!
Today, the poor are crying out for help. Unborn children are begging for protection. The sick and dying are desperate for compassion. Clearly, the needs are great all around us. But just as great is the need for conversions. So many are wandering in sin and confusion. Countless people have even turned their backs on the Lord and need to be brought back home.
If we want to see the church become the light to the world that Jesus calls it to be, it is up to us to make his ways our ways, his disposition our disposition, his zeal to build the church our zeal. The next article will describe some steps we can take to allow this to happen, so that we too can be formed into effective and passionate evangelizers
(Joe Difato is the publisher of “The Word Among Us” devotional magazine. To contact him, go to his website at www.joedifato.com. Many thanks to The Word Among Us (http://www.wau.org/) for allowing us to use his article from their July issue. Used with permission.)
Questions for Reflection/Discussion
1. Why do you think the first century Christians were able to evangelize with such passion, in spite of the great odds against them?
2. In what ways do we, as twenty-first century Christians, have more graces and wisdom for evangelizing, compared to the first century Christians?
3. Why do you think we, as Catholic men, struggle to evangelize with the same passion as the first century Christians? How would you answer the question posed in the article: “What is my disposition?”
4. In the article, we hear these words: “Today, the poor are crying out for help. Unborn children are begging for protection. The sick and dying are desperate for compassion. Clearly, the needs are great all around us. But just as great is the need for conversions.” Do you agree that the “need for conversion” is just as great as these other needs (perhaps even greater)? Why or why not?
5. The article lists many reasons why the need for conversion is “just as great.” Do you agree with these reasons? Why or why not?
6. The article ends with this challenge: “If we want to see the church become the light to the world that Jesus calls it to be, it is up to us to make his ways our ways, his disposition our disposition, his zeal to build the church our zeal.” The next article will describe some steps we can take to allow this to happen. In the meantime, what are some steps you can do now to take up this challenge?
(The discussion questions were created by Maurice Blumberg, a Trustee of the National Fellowship of Catholic Men (http://www.catholicmensresources.org/), and currently the Director of Partner Relations for Partners in Evangelism, (http://www2.wau.org/partners/), a Ministry of The Word Among Us to the Military and Prisoners. Maurice can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)