In the Paul’s conversion story. Why did Jesus stop Paul in his tracks? Was it to save his soul? Yes of course, but that’s not all. Was it to stop him from persecuting Christians? Yes, but still that’s not all. There’s much more to it than that!
Jesus saved Paul to send him forth as an apostle. The word “apostle” means “one who is sent by God.”
In one way or another, Jesus has stopped you in your tracks — not just to save you, nor just to help you become a nicer person, but also to send you forth as an apostle.
He says to each of us what he said to the first apostles in today’s Gospel reading (Mark 3:22-30). Our places of employment, our neighbors’ yards, the company parties, the Little League games and the school functions we attend are the world into which God sends us to proclaim the Gospel. And it’s easy! It’s what comes naturally if we dare to trust our usefulness to God.
Evangelization is easy because it’s not proselytizing nor is it apologetics. We’re not called to be religious fanatics who yell, “Repent and be saved!” Nor does evangelization require forcing conversations to become religious discussions. Evangelization means consciously using ordinary opportunities to reveal to others what Jesus is like by first imitating him and then by using words when the listener is interested.
Is God pleased with us when we keep our faith private? What would our Bible and our Church be like if St. Paul had kept the Good News to himself, quietly worshipping with the Christians he used to persecute, risking nothing? He wrote several epistles (much of the New Testament) while in prison, and eventually he gave up his life for the Gospel. Oh but we are not all Saint Pauls, right? Oh but oh! We all have the same calling to be apostles.
We stop short of the glory of God’s kingdom if we only practice our faith privately and we only speak of it when it’s safe. Vatican Council II’s Decree on the Apostolate of Lay People emphasizes that each one of us has been commissioned by Jesus. God will provide us with whatever we need to fulfill our apostolic duties successfully. He has privileged us to be his partners in ministry, even to the point of death if necessary. (Yes! That is an honor that shouldn’t scare us.)
We can share the Good News with authority. We earned our credentials in our many and various moments of conversion. What changed you? Why did your life need to change? What happened when you allowed Jesus to become more involved in your life? Because of your faith experiences, whether you’re clergy or a religious or a lay person, you have been called to a vocation of living as an apostle who inspires others to desire what Jesus has given to you.
You are an apostle! Now go forth and find an excuse to tell someone a story about how Jesus has helped you. Ask the Holy Spirit to enliven your imagination with the right words and to bless the conversation — and he will! Then open your mouth and tell the Good News.