I was reading about the life of Sr Clare Crockett. She was a religious sister who was killed in an earthquake when she was working in Ecuador. She was only thirty-three years old.
As a teenager in Ireland, she wanted to be a film star. She was living a very secular life without any faith or moral boundaries.
Everything changed when she walked into a church with some friends. She had an intense experience of God’s love for her. She couldn’t stop weeping. And when one of the sisters came over to see if she was OK, Clare said: “Jesus died for me! He loves me! Why hasn’t anyone ever told me this before?!”
That’s the interesting and hard question. “Why hasn’t anyone ever told me this before?” As Christians, we are given the most amazing gift: our faith in Jesus Christ, and our knowledge of his love for us, and for all people. But for most of the time, we keep it to ourselves. Many, many people have never heard this message.
Imagine there is a terrible famine, and a huge crate of emergency food is dropped into your garden by parachute. But instead of sharing it with your neighbours, who are dying of hunger, you hide it in your basement.
Or imagine you are shipwrecked on a desert island with hundreds of other passengers. One night, after months of waiting, a boat comes to save you. But instead of waking the others and sharing the news with them, you get into the boat and sail off alone.
We can be like this with our Christian faith: keeping it for ourselves, hiding it – as if the Church is a club that has no relevance to those outside.
Now we need to have huge respect for people from other faiths, or none, and to take their convictions very seriously. But it doesn’t stop us wanting to share the things we believe are important and true.
Pope Francis says that every Christian is called to be a “missionary disciple”. We are sent out on a mission to share our faith with others. Another word for this is “evangelisation”, which literally means “to share good news”.
Now you might think this is all just a bit extreme. Maybe it’s just for priests and sisters and RE teachers. But in fact it’s for every Christian.
Here are three reasons why you can’t be a Christian without sharing your faith.
First: joy. If you receive great news, you want to share it with people. It’s natural. So if the Christian message is true, how could you not want to share it with others?
Second: love. If you really care for someone, you want to help them. One of the greatest gifts you could give them is your faith. Not to impose anything, but to share what is truly mportant. It’s an act of love.
Third: obedience. This is simply what Jesus asks. He tells us not to hide our light under a bucket. He tells us to make disciples of all nations, teaching and baptising as we go. This is not an optional extra, it’s a fundamental part of being a Christian.
Sometimes we witness to others just by our example. We don’t always need words. We just live our Christian faith. We go to church on Sunday, we say our prayers, we try to love those around us. It doesn’t feel very special, but it touches people, even if we don’t notice. Never underestimate the power of a Christian example.
Sometimes we do need to talk about our faith. Maybe there is a discussion about religion or morality, or someone asks us what we believe. So we just have an honest conversation. Or maybe an issue comes up, and our conscience tells us that we need to explain what we believe or take a stand. It’s not about winning an argument, but witnessing to our faith, and speaking from the heart.
And sometimes we might endeavour to be a bit more proactive and look for opportunities to share our faith. We might start a religious conversation, or invite friends to our church, or tell someone that we are praying for them. We might share something on social media, or speak about what our faith means to us personally.
It’s not always easy. Not everyone is interested. And sometimes it is better to be silent. We can meet some prejudice about Christianity and even some discrimination. We need wisdom to work out when to speak and what to say. Above all, we need the help of the Holy Spirit. That’s one of the most powerful prayers you can make, to say: “Holy Spirit, help me!”
We are never alone. When Jesus sent his disciples out on mission, he also made them a promise. He said: “Remember, I am with you always, until the end of time” (Mt 28:20).
If we pray for those around us, and pray for opportunities to share our faith, then these opportunities will come, often in beautiful and surprising ways. It’s not to judge others, or to think that we are superior. It’s just to share the joy of our faith.
This blog is extracted from SYCAMORE: The Catholic Faith Explained.In SYCAMORE you will find answers to the most common questions about life and faith, whether you want to deepen the faith you already have or are exploring the faith for the first time.
To learn more about the Catholic faith in an approachable way, or for help passing it on to others, get your copy of SYCAMORE today.