Sometimes, before certain conversations take place, I will play them out in my head. Line by line, I will go through my arguments, what the other person will inevitably say, and exactly how I will respond. Going through an exercise like this is not be bad in itself; some people may benefit from playing out different scenarios before engaging in a difficult or challenging conversation. However, there have been times when I am so focused on the “script” in my mind that I do not fully listen and respond to the person who I am speaking with.
In the weeks leading to Easter last year, some missionaries showed up on my porch. One man asked me a question or two about my relationship with God. After I responded, he seemed to ignore my response and moved onto the next part of his “script.” When I pointed out a Scripture passage or mentioned that we actually shared a lot of common ground, this man would veer away from anything I said. Instead of talking with me, he seemed to be talking at me. It wasn’t so much a conversation as it was an opportunity for him to systematically walk through his memorized speech.
Catholics and non-Catholics alike can do this. We can receive wonderful education in apologetics, and we can learn logical arguments for various Church teachings. Yet, in our enthusiasm, we can then stick to our pre-written scripts when we evangelize. Not only that, but we can focus on our own personal timelines and agendas.
It’s important to learn about the Catholic faith and be able to explain what we believe. Yet if we put our desire to spout out arguments before our desire to bring Christ’s love to other people, we’re going about evangelization the wrong way. I like quick and painless results. Our country offers many conveniences that make life simple and satisfy my desire for instant gratification. As a disciple of Christ, though, I should sacrifice my desire for instant results when it comes to evangelization. Moving my gaze off my own agenda, I can direct it to God’s will. While I need to know various arguments and reasoning, it’s imperative that I speak about these truths from the heart.
What if, instead of spending all of our time trying to come up with clever one-liners to drop in conversation, we build relationships with people? What if, instead of trying to “stick to the script at all costs,” we engage in actual loving, compassionate dialogue about the Faith?
Dialogue is based on hope and love, and will bear fruit in the Spirit … those engaged in this dialogue must be consistent with their own religious traditions and convictions, and be open to understanding those of the other party without pretense or close-mindedness, but with truth, humility and frankness, knowing that dialogue can enrich each side (St. John Paul II, Redemptoris Missio #56).
Let’s ask God to fill our conversations with this hope and love. Let’s strive for greater humility. Let’s steep our lives in prayer and ask the Holy Spirit to work in and through us, so that we may bring the Gospel to others. Whether we embark on mission trips or welcome missionaries to our front porches this summer, let’s focus on bringing Christ’s love and compassion every person we meet.
Copyright 2019 AnneMarie Miller