Image courtesy of Myriams-Fotos (Pixabay)
How much can we possibly love someone that we’re going to meet on the street, evangelize for a matter of minutes and then probably never see again? The answer is: a lot, a whole lot.
First, let’s define our terms. Love. What does it mean to love someone? I think that for most people in our culture, to love someone is ‘to have feelings for them’ or ‘affection’ for them or ‘to be attracted’ to them. But that’s not the kind of love I’m talking about.
To love someone, in the Christian sense, is to want what’s good for them, and to make sacrifices for them to get it. So, we can love people by praying for their needs, or by sacrificing our time and helping them with something that needs to be done. We can share our treasure, or money with someone – that’s almsgiving, and it involves things like feeding the poor, and donating clothes. Finally we can use our talents to help people. Some people are good with computers and can help those who aren’t. Some people are good with plumbing or electrical stuff. Some people are good cooks, some people have good social and planning skills and can help you throw a party. These are all loving things we can do by sacrificing our time, talent and treasure.
So what’s the greatest good? Heaven — to save someone from hell for heaven is helping them achieve their greatest good. Why? Because heaven is what God made us for. If you don’t have that, you don’t have anything.
Think about it. If you have what a lot of people would consider a great life — you have the perfect spouse with the perfect amount of perfect kids, your dream job, millions of dollars in the bank, have great friends, go on great vacations, great health and live to be a hundred, and then die a painless death in your sleep — if you have all that, but die without being in a right relationship with Jesus Christ, then … “It would have been better for that man if he had not been born” (Matt 26:24).
The 2 greatest commandments are to love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. And the second is to love your neighbor as yourself. Jesus said that to a Pharisee who was testing Him, and He was quoting the Old Testament. Later on in His ministry Jesus clarified these commandments. This happened in John’s Gospel. First He tells us how we are to love Him: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15).
And then in John 15:12 we read how Jesus clarified the commandment. He says, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” That seems different from loving my neighbor as I do myself. After all, loving someone as I love myself could simply mean something like, “Keep your sheep off my lawn and I’ll keep mine off yours” or “Don’t keep me up all night playing your lyre, and I’ll extend you the same courtesy.” I could do that no problem. But no! Jesus says love one another the way He loves us.
How did He love us? He thirsts for us. He communed for us. He won grace for us. He preached the Gospel to us, He taught us, He prayed for us, and at the end of His ministry He sacrificed His life for us. “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lays down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). That’s the line right after, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”
So we have to die for our neighbors. Hopefully not literally, but at least we must die to ourselves. We have to be selfless, and live a life of sacrificial love. “He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matt 10:39). This is why Jesus on the cross is the perfect icon of love. He gave everything, so we could have the best thing.
How is that even possible though? To love one another the way Jesus loved us? We’re sinful human beings. If only we could somehow have the power of Jesus coursing through our veins to help us (wink, wink).
Abide in Jesus in the Eucharist
Back to John, chapter 15: Jesus says, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in me, and I in him, bears much fruit.” So how do we abide in Jesus?
John again: “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him” (John 6:54-56).
I’m referring to the Eucharist of course. The Eucharist is Jesus in the flesh, and if we consume Him in a state of grace, we have the power to love one another the way He loves us. So, that’s the first thing we need to do for those we evangelize. We have to abide in Jesus by being in a state of grace and receiving Him in the Eucharist.
Pray for those you evangelize
The next loving thing we can do for those we evangelize is to pray for them. Remember the Holy Spirit is the principal agent of evangelization. He inspires us to show up. He gives us the words to say. He inspires folks to stop and chat with us, and He’s the one that’s going to convert hearts and minds.
We can’t convert anyone. But God can through our conversations. Therefore, since the Holy Spirit is running the show we need to be in a relationship with Him through prayer.
Prayer is communicating with God. We can praise Him, we can express sorrow for our sins, we can thank Him for all he does, and we can ask Him for good things, and we can listen to what He says to our heart.
There’s formal prayers like the Our Father, and Glory Be, and informal prayers, which is just talking to God like the loving Father He is. Both are great. We should be doing both.
The most powerful prayer without question is the Mass. We should have Masses said for the conversion of the people we want to evangelize. It’s been said that having a Mass said for someone while they’re alive is worth more than 100 Masses said for them after death. Why is that? Because where a tree falls, it lays; meaning that we can’t grow much in holiness after we die.
Pray the Rosary for them
Another super powerful prayer is the rosary. Many miracles have been attributed to it. It helped defeat the Islamic Forces in the Battle of Lepanto in 1571 when the Catholics were greatly outnumbered.
It also protected priests from the Atom Bomb that hit Hiroshima in 1945. It may have saved a girl from being murdered by Ted Bundy in 1978. Bundy killed two girls and wounded two others at a Sorority house at Florida State University, and then he went looking for more victims. According to the account, he entered another girl’s room, saw a rosary clutched in her hand, and fled. Later the girl told authorities that before she left for college she had promised her grandmother that she would pray the rosary every night for protection, even if she fell asleep in the process.
So how did we get the rosary?
The story goes that at the beginning of the 13th century, our Church was experiencing violent opposition from a group known as the Albigensians. The Albigensians taught that only spiritual realities were good and everything material was evil. According to their doctrine, each person’s soul is imprisoned in an evil body. If a person wanted to experience salvation, they needed to break free from the material prison of their flesh. People would kill themselves in order to be saved.
These beliefs were a direct attack against what the Catholic Church proclaimed – that Jesus became man, died for our sins, and rose from the dead. The Albigensians were violently opposed to this. They even murdered a papal legate who had been sent to dialogue with them.
During this time, St. Dominic established himself as a dynamic preacher against their errors. And he set out on a preaching campaign. He went from town to town proclaiming the truths of Christianity. Dominic figured that, since he was gifted with a great preaching ability and theological acumen, that he’d be able to win souls back to Christ rather easily.
However, after doing this for several years, he realized that his methods were not as effective as he hoped. He concluded that he was up against formidable spiritual powers and he needed something (or someone) stronger to overcome them.
So in the year 1208, Dominic retreated into the silence of a forest near Toulouse, France to pray, begging heaven to come to his aid. After 3 days of intense, prayer, fasting, and penitential acts the Queen of Heaven came to his assistance.
According to accounts, on that third day, a ball of fire and three holy angels appeared in the sky after which the Virgin Mary spoke to St. Dominic. She said, “Wonder not that until now you have obtained so little fruit by your labors; you have spent them on a barren soil, not yet watered with the dew of divine grace. When God willed to renew the face of the earth, he began by sending down on it the fertilizing rain of the Angelic Salutation. Therefore, preach my Psalter.” This was the founding moment of the rosary.
If you didn’t know, a psalter is a book that contains the 150 Psalms. Monks would pray the Psalms every day (they still do). Anyway, before printing was invented, books were super expensive. And most of the world was illiterate and poor, and poor men did not own books — usually only monastic communities and churches had books. Well, the common folk wanted to pray like the monks did, and since they didn’t have this book of Psalms, they recited 150 Our Fathers or Hail Marys instead. And so, when Mary told St. Dominic to preach her psalter, she was talking about the practice of praying 150 Hail Mary’s.
It’s important to remember that this Marian Psalter was already being recited by several groups. What made her exhortation to St. Dominic unique was that she instructed him to preach her Psalter. She wasn’t telling him to make other people aware of the practice of praying the 150 Hail Marys, she wanted him to combine the prayers with his preaching on the saving mysteries of Christ. These came to be known as the Joyful, Sorrowful, and Glorious Mysteries. 50 Hail Marys for each set of mysteries = 150 Hail Marys.
This combination of prayer and preaching on the life of Jesus would then lead to meditation and conversion. This method gave St. Dominic the ability to win hearts back to Christ and overcome the enemy, and would serve for all future generations as a meditative battering ram against theological error.
There are a lot more details to the story, so if you’re interested check out “Champions of the Rosary” by Father Don Calloway (which is where I got this information from). If we’re not doing it already, we should commit to praying the rosary every day. It’s a way to supercharge our evangelization efforts.
Pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet for them
Another powerful prayer is the Divine Mercy Chaplet. Think of it like this, the Rosary and the Chaplet together are like a mini-Mass for the laity. The Rosary is like the liturgy of the word, and then the chaplet is like the liturgy of the Eucharist. Think of the words of the chaplet: “Eternal Father, we offer you the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your Dearly Beloved Son, Our Lord, Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world.” Just like at Mass.
If you want to make your prayers even more powerful, do them during a holy hour in front of the Blessed Sacrament. The rosary and chaplet together take half an hour. You can fill the next half hour by praying informally from your heart, and then sitting in silence and listening to what God has to say.
Stay tuned for part two of this article