A Disciple’s Ministry of Invitation

“Blessed are they who have not seen and have believed.”  Doubt about religious belief is very healthy as long as doubt can lead us to a closer relationship to God.  Healthy doubt requires us to perfect our reason with faith.  Healthy doubt was the doubt of St. Thomas. He wasn’t going to be taken in by all the apparent emotion of the apostles over a supposed resurrected Christ.  Thomas wanted empirical proof of our Blessed Lord’s bodily resurrection.

We do not have the privilege of St. Thomas to be in the room with the resurrected Christ.  So we must perfect our reasoning with an increase of faith about what Thomas actually saw and touched. Who better to increase our faith in study than Jesus’s followers the saints? We learn they piously prayed and tenaciously listened to God during their meditations. Many doubted, some had dark nights of the soul but all remained faithful.  They used faith to perfect their reason.

Implementing faith is not out of the ordinary or relegated to religious people. We all use faith in in our practical everyday lives.   For example before crossing a street we are taught to look both ways.  When the street looks clear that first step off the curb is an act of faith that we will be able to traverse safely.  We see a chair.  It is reasonable to conclude that the chair will support our weight.  When we proceed to sit down in the chair it is faith that the chair will be there to receive us.  So it is the same with religious principles that faith perfects our reasoning. But even the faithful can have doubt. This is quite normal.

Doubt should not paralyze our relationship with God to do nothing about it. Noise is an ally of doubt.  Noise in our life deafens our listening. Without listening faith decreases to disbelief.   Worse than disbelief is indifference!  Indifference is the world saying who cares about a made up resurrection story.  What difference does it make?

Indifference is petrified doubt.  Faith is enlivened doubt. On Easter Sunday, the world sees an empty tomb without life’s purpose.  Our faith sees an empty tomb filled with the answer about our existence.  Why we are here and where are we going?  The world sees an empty tomb of continued brokenness, aloneness and despair.  Our faith sees the empty tomb filled with happiness, belonging and mission. St. Paul says (Cor. 4:16) , “For the slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, because look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen; for things  that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

As the resurrected Jesus Christ entered the room of the apostles he breathed on them the Holy Spirit restoring the privilege given to Adam when God breathed life into him.  Adam and Eve were privileged to walk with God in the joy of sharing and creating with Him.  They broke that relationship.  So what did God do?  He searched for them.  God knows where they were but the Genesis author tells us that God is engaged with us and will seek us out even when we hide in shame. It was centuries later that Jesus restored that gift of the Holy Spirit back to all of us.

The gift of the Holy Spirit has privilege and responsibility.  The privilege is the fruits of the Holy Spirit.  Who would not want those fruits:   Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Gentleness, Goodness, Faith and Openness to learn more?

Responsibility comes with these gifts.  The resurrected Jesus Christ doubles down on his authority and was clear about our mission along with the apostles who still doubted.  In the Gospel Of Matthew 28:16-20 we read, “The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them.  And when they saw him they worshiped him; but some doubted.”  Jesus tells us his disciples that we are to make disciples of all peoples.

St. John Chrysostom said, “He who is content with saving himself and neglects the salvation of others, cannot secure his own salvation.”  Yikes!  Some of us may say, now we are really in doubt with such a teaching from St. John Chrysostom.  What an awesome and overwhelming responsibility placed on us believers? Personally, I doubt if I have the time, the zeal, or the piety of saints to accomplish such a task.  I know that I have so many imperfections, that I too doubt of fulfilling the charge of our Blessed Lord to make disciples of my neighbor.  However, I take consolation through prayerful reasoning that there is a solution to whatever, whenever or where ever my capabilities and yours lay in fulfilling the mission of discipleship.

First we must become disciples ourselves.  Disciples are not spectators.  They run the race of salvation, as St. Paul would say.  Disciples have healthy doubt and see the empty tomb filled with hope and joy.  All disciples are capable to perform what I would call a disciple’s ministry of invitation.

What is a disciple’s ministry of invitation?   It is a subtle but deliberate act attentive to Godly opportunities with another.  It requires the perception to be attentive to others life situations along with a virtue of careful and intensive listening to another.  It means turning off our personal noise and really listening to another without judgment but with true Godly love, and purity of heart and mercy if need be.  We all know people that are going through painful trials we call life situations and questions about God.

Some of their pains are financial, some health, some family, or work related. Pain is an opportune time to offer genuine Christian fraternal consolation.  CS Lewis said, “Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” A ministry of invitation can be you, a disciple, to be found on the other side of that person’s pain.

Second, disciple’s ministry of invitation, asks to include others in our prayers. We all can listen to another when life situation moments arrive as we ask another,   “May I be allowed to include your intentions in my personal prayers and community prayers at Holy Communion?” (Footnote: We Catholics know the meaning of Mass and Holy Eucharist but our new friend may not know the meaning of Mass and Holy Eucharist. We use terms that are understandable.)

Third, we become like the Good Shepherd, our Blessed Lord, we follow up with the special person of our prayers that you remembered them. And again we can ask if there are other life situations they may have that you can include in your prayers. If there are physical needs refer them to social services of the community and church. A disciple’s ministry of invitation keeps in mind the spirit of Mother Theresa who too is recorded to have doubts, she said,   “We can do no great things, only small things with great love.” Undoubtedly we can all simply pray for ourselves and another with great love.

Fourth, as trust in the relationship may increase we invite the person we have been praying for to our parish family receptions, communal prayers and events with a warm and embracing heart. Allow the Holy Spirit to guide the relationship without force. Remember the disciple’s ministry of invitation always begins with a genuine Christ like smile, creating the shortest distance between two people. Ask God to increase our faith and decrease doubt through our ministry of invitation. In times of my own doubt I include the prayer found in Mark’s Gospel, “Lord I believe help my unbelief.”

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