What does it mean for me to share my faith?

| Father Michael Schmitz | January 10, 2018 | 1 Comment
Sharing faith

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I wrote last month to someone who had asked about how to best direct a friend to a good parish that will connect him with people who will help him come to know God and be able to better follow Christ.

My response pointed out that most of us Catholics have become “institutionalized” in the sense that we look to the institution of the Church to carry out the process of evangelization and discipleship in the lives of people in our community. Because of that, we look for a Program, a Procedure, or the Professionals who have been trained to do the job for us. Yet, the answer is rarely found in those three locations. It is found most clearly and comprehensively in Personal relationships. Who can best share the faith with your friends? You can.

This can be incredibly intimidating for people, and I wonder if I know why. Most of us imagine that “sharing the faith” with another person means being able to answer all of their questions, quoting effortlessly from the Bible and from the Catechism. We might think that sharing the faith means being able to explain difficult concepts or justify various teachings of the Church. There are times when our friends and family members will need an answer to those kinds of questions. But they need something else even more. They need you to share your faith.

Here we see the difference between “sharing the faith” and “sharing your faith.” The term “faith” can mean “what Catholics believe”; this is called the “content of our faith.” It is what we recite during Mass on Sundays and is generally summarized in the creed.

But the term “faith” can also indicate the personal relationship and commitment a person has to God. One’s faith is another word for the trust you have in Jesus. Because of this, to “share your faith” can simply mean sharing the relationship you have with Jesus with the people who are interested in knowing about him.

Let’s put it this way: The very best way to help someone get to know Jesus is through personal relationship. Further, what you are doing when you are helping them get to know Jesus is telling the other person about your personal relationship with Jesus. You are sharing what he has told you and how he has strengthened you.

You can see how this highlights the difference between teaching them the details about Jesus versus sharing Jesus with them. Share him. The facts and data are super important, but we share him.

And this fact emphasizes the crux of why many people feel inadequate about sharing their faith: I need to have a relationship with him, or I have literally nothing to share.

Did you know that a recent poll indicated that 47 percent of Catholics did not believe that it is possible to have a personal relationship with God? This is beyond tragic. Imagine being in the Church that was founded by a personal God so we could be brought into personal relationship (covenant) with him in this life and forever in the next, and not even believing that this is possible. It is the whole reason the Church exists!

Jesus is the Lord. Is he the Lord of my life? Jesus has conquered sin. Have I allowed him to conquer the sin in my life? I believe in Jesus. Has this belief made an impact on my life? If it hasn’t, then why would I want to share it with anyone?

Well, someone could say, it is true. Therefore, they should believe the truth! I agree. But why would I go out of my way to share my life with them? Just because I want them to “believe the right things?” That isn’t bad, but it isn’t enough.

It isn’t until we have begun to be changed by the relationship with Jesus that we have the inner fire that desires to burn not just in our hearts, but in the hearts of those whom we love. The desire — the compulsion — to share this relationship.

Someone might challenge me on all of this. They might argue that I am making evangelization sound like it is merely “Jesus and me.” After all, what I’m encouraging here sounds like “just tell people about ‘Jesus and you.’” But there is more.

What is the way that you and I come to know Jesus? Through his Church. What is the way that you and I are brought into relationship with him? Through his sacraments that initiate us into the new and eternal covenant and through other sacraments that sustain us in the new and eternal covenant. How are our misunderstandings of God’s identity corrected? By listening to his word in the Bible and his clear teaching through the Church.

The proper place for a relationship with Jesus is in and through his Church. Therefore, in sharing your relationship with Jesus, you are also sharing the way he continues to heal, guide and sanctify the world through the Church. It is not either/or. It is both/and.

Things can still get complicated. Lucky for us, we are not alone. There are resources that make complex teachings simple. There are a bunch of Catholics (clergy and laypeople) who make various videos and podcasts available for free on the internet. Many parishes have access to Catholic radio and Formed.org, which provide an abundance of content for when you get stuck. Those are all good resources. But none of them is as good as you.

Father Schmitz is director of youth and young adult ministry for the Diocese of Duluth and chaplain of the Newman Center at the University of Minnesota Duluth. Reach him at fathermikeschmitz@gmail.com.

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