By Lisa Mladinich
St. Paul was no wimp. He was revered by the early Christians and could have easily freeloaded on their charity. Yet he wisely sets an example of virtue. He and his fellow evangelists work side jobs to provide for their own temporal needs, while they dedicate themselves to building up the Christian community. Recognizing human nature and the slippery slope of making excuses for being idle, Paul spares no one:
In fact, when we were with you, we instructed you that
if anyone was unwilling to work, neither should that one eat. (2 Thes 3:10)
Our work ethic as Christians can set an example of tireless, patient perseverance, of never being idle in the spiritual life, of continuous and compassionate love for others.
Years ago, one of my sisters fell away from the Catholic faith and embraced Hinduism and Yoga. We exchanged letters and ideas, and I read the pantheistic Hindu scriptures, the Bhagavad Gita (roughly translated, “the song of the Lord”), in order to find common ground with her. Over the course of about a year, I prayed and sweated over my mission, searching for the perfect argument to turn her heart back to Christ.
And then one day, she called and said, “I want what you have,” and I dropped to my knees.
“Let’s pray together,” I said.
After a few words of thanks to Our Lord, we began to discuss what she meant by what you have. She wanted the crutch of faith, she began, and I cut her off. “Then you’re looking in the wrong place,” I said immediately. “Christianity will challenge you down to your toenails,” I declared. “It’s no crutch.”
She pondered only a moment before saying, “I still want it. And it has nothing to do with anything you’ve ever said or written.”
My heart sank. All my hard work had been irrelevant. I asked, “Then what was it?”
“I could see the Holy Spirit working in your life,” she stated simply.
As I reflect on this from a distance of many years, this story is clear evidence of the common statement among modern-day Catholic evangelists: We don’t make conversions; God does. While clearly true, it can make all our hard work seem pointless. Yet, our persevering care for souls is blessed by God. The efforts may be ours, but the power is all his. Loving someone enough to meet them halfway, listening to them in order to truly understand, accepting them right where you find them, and being ready to boldly but respectfully declare our beliefs can be used by God to open the door of their hearts.
On this Memorial of the Passion of Saint John the Baptist, who persevered in speaking the truth no matter the cost, let’s ponder another bracing statement from St. Paul:
Let us not grow tired of doing good, for in due time we shall reap our harvest, if we do not give up. (Gal 6:9)
Question: When have you experienced God’s blessing on your efforts to evangelize?
About the author:
Lisa Mladinich is a Catholic wife and mom, and the host of Shalom World TV’s WOMAN: Strong Faith, True Beauty. She is the best-selling author of True Radiance: Finding Grace in the Second Half of Life and a new prayer book for adults and children: Heads Bowed: Prayers for Catholic School Days. Lisa speaks on a variety of topics, including authentic beauty and aging, praying with children, Mary as a role model, friendship, conversion, and teaching the Catholic faith to children. She can be reached through her website, AmazingCatechists.com.
I love your writing–how true it is that it’s not us who can do anything, but it’s God! I experienced this when my husband converted. He had no church, having stopped attending his local Lutheran church once he received communion. Then he met me 20 some years later and I would only date a guy willing to come to church with me on Sundays. He came the first time with the sports section of the paper and i had to tell him that was not exactly what I’d meant. But he kept coming and, about 5 years later (we were then married), he called from work and said he’d signed up for RCIA classes! I was totally shocked! How God has blessed us both!
Thank you to our writer and to everyone who makes this column possible! May God continue to bless you and your efforts!
Thank you, Kathy! I am so thrilled to read this beautiful story. It’s so funny to think of him bringing the sports section with him to mass! I laughed to read it. But look at what God has done through your love and faithfulness, as well as your clear standards. God bless you in your love and life together!