How to persuade
Going Behind the Word
To put it bluntly, we Catholics are not very good at persuading. In general, we do not like to talk to others in a way that would put our faith life out in the open. We would rather just go about our lives quietly, not taking the chance to bother anyone.
But that is not the life of the gospel. It must become the case that we get better at learning how to persuade, for if we don’t, it could be the case that we will not be around much longer to persuade anyone.
Of course that is an exaggeration. We have the extraordinary promise of Jesus that he will be with the Church for all times. But the Great Commission was about persuasion. We must, in our lives, teach and baptize. And this is all about Jesus. Always.
But it may be that we do not know how to persuade. Just how is it that we learn how to persuade others that the life of the gospel is worth living? For that is something that more than ever before, especially here in the United States, is needed. We must recognize the call to evangelization.
The First Step: Authenticity
There is no point of thinking about trying to evangelize, trying to persuade others, if we are not concerned with our authentic living of the gospel. If, in fact, we are saying one thing, but living another way, not consistent with the gospel, then our words have the opposite effect. Rather than persuading, they in fact drive people farther away.
It is important to know that authenticity is not perfection. I know in my life that just because I stand in the pulpit and deliver a homily, I do not do so from the place of perfection. I sin. Just ask the brothers in my community, they will tell you. I sin, I fall short, I do not do what I say.
But I strive to do better. I do my best to try to find my way back to God by going to confession and praying. I am a sinner and I need God’s grace. And so do you. But the fact that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God does not mean that we cannot proclaim Jesus. Perhaps all the more we can proclaim Jesus because we know of his mercy and grace.
The toxic inauthenticity is when we think we do not need to convert. If we think that we do not need God’s grace, then we are just words. If we are not honestly striving to get closer to Jesus, then we are liars. Being hypocritical without conversion and repentance is the exactly what Jesus called the Pharisees and the Sadducees on in the gospels.
More than anything else we can do, we must be who we say we are. And who are we? Sinners seeking over and over again God’s grace so that we can become holy. Saint Paul’s preaching was to powerful and he did not mince words. “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. Of these I am the foremost.” (1 Timothy 1:15)
The Second Step: Name the Value
What is it that Jesus has done for you? You have something wonderful to share. Your faith in Jesus, your relationship with Jesus is indeed something awesome. It is the most wonderful thing ever. But each of us has to decide how it is we can witness to the wonderful gift we have. The bible tells us that we have been given many gifts by the Holy Spirit. But we have not all been given the same gifts.
So why is it your faith is valuable to you? What is it that Jesus has done for you? Consider what it is that Jesus said to the man possessed by demons. “But he would not permit him but told him instead, “Go home to your family and announce to them all that the Lord in his pity has done for you.”
This is a great line for evangelization, and a great goal for each one of us. Think about it. Make clear what God in his mercy has done for us. That is what we are to do. When we can share what it is that God in his mercy has done for us, especially if we have built any level of trust, great things happen.
The Third Step: Invite
The third part of the lesson of how to persuade is to invite people to join you. Even if you do not know them well you could invite them to Mass. If you have met them at a parish event, share something happening in the parish that you find particularly fulfilling. You have the whole power of the Church behind you!
Before any of the steps, Pray
In today’s homily you will hear me say I do not know how to pray. Even though I do it a lot, I am still trying to figure it out. The disciples made a great prayer to Jesus. “Lord, teach us to pray.” And it is ok to start a prayer with the admission that you do not know what you are doing, but you know what you want. You want a relationship with Jesus. And you want others to have that too.