21 Dec Holy Enthusiasm
God sometimes nudges you in a particular direction – either in thought or action – by using a series of coincidences. Even the smallest ones can be significant. In morning prayer last Thursday, I read these words, “Give us the strong faith of the apostles, and their fervor in preaching your word.” They are very similar to a prayer we are currently using in our Advent liturgy for the Holy Eucharist:
“For the mission of the Church, that in faithful witness it may preach the Gospel to the ends of the earth, we pray to you, O Lord.”
In our Advent Study Course last week, our group was discussing the question of preaching the gospel – the good news – of Jesus Christ. How do you do that? One couple who attended the session related their own story of being asked by the Rector of the time to go knocking on doors. Were they prepared for this type of evangelizing? I asked. Not really, they replied, but they did it anyway. What they discovered was that, instead of being turned away, they found a welcome from the people they met and a willingness to hear the gospel message. God had already prepared the hearts of the people to receive the Word of God.
As Christians, we are called not only to believe the gospel but to preach it. That doesn’t mean knowing every chapter and verse of the Bible and quoting it to others, in order to impress them. However, a few basic beliefs are required:
1. You need to know Jesus and who he was: the Savior and Son of God.
2. What Jesus did: he taught, healed and at the same time trained the apostles to be the leaders of the church.
3. Why Jesus is important: he died for our sins and rose from the dead.
4. You also need to know that the reason was LOVE. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” (John 3:16).
However, it is not enough simply to know the gospel in order to preach the gospel. There is something else you need, and that something is enthusiasm. It’s a word which originally meant “god-inspired zeal.” When preaching the gospel, your testimony will carry conviction and be more persuasive if you speak enthusiastically. Having enthusiasm also dissipates the fear of speaking personally to others about your faith.
Like the people who received an unexpected knock on the door, there is a world that is waiting to hear the good news of Jesus Christ. St Francis Xavier was a missionary from the 16th century who was filled with “god-inspired zeal.” He once wrote to St Ignatius from India,
“Very many out here fail to become Christians simply because there is nobody available to make them Christians. I have very often had the notion to go round the universities of Europe, and especially Paris, and to shout aloud everywhere like a madman, and to bludgeon those people who have more learning than love, with these words, Alas, what an immense number of souls are excluded from heaven through your fault and thrust down to hell!”
It reminded me of my own zeal after ordination – I truly wanted to convert the whole world to Christianity. I knew it was an impossible task, but God put the notion into my head, and that idea – that possibility/impossibility – continues to motivate me to share the good news with as many people as possible.
In case you aren’t feeling very enthusiastic about preaching the gospel, then think of something you are enthusiastic about and then ask yourself, why not the gospel too? Which matters more? St Francis Xavier reminds us that we are here not only for ourselves, but for others. What finer achievement in life is there than to save a lost soul, or provide a message of hope to someone in despair? Nothing! With the necessary enthusiasm, you have the power to do it. May God bless you with love, wisdom, and joy, and fill you with enthusiasm to spread the good news of Jesus Christ!
With the love of the Son and in the power of the Spirit,