2nd Sunday of the Year 1 Samuel 3:3–10, 19; 1 Corinthians 6:13–15, 17–20; John 1:35–42
Operation Andrew Like Andrew, we should share our faith in Jesus with others.
Several years ago an old man was admitted to a hospital for treatment. After the nurse made him comfortable, she asked the man a few routine questions. She had to fill out one of those hospital forms.
One question she asked the old man was, “What is your religious preference?” The old man looked at the nurse and said, “I’m awfully glad you asked me that. I’ve always wanted to be a Catholic, but nobody ever asked me before. You’re the first one.”
This true story raises an embarrassing question. Why do so many of hesitate to share our faith with other people? Or we could put the question this way: If we believe the Gospel is good news, why don’t we share it with others? Or if we believe Jesus is the greatest treasure the heart can possess, why don’t we share our faith in Jesus with others?
This brings us to today’s Scripture readings.
The first reading presents Samuel sharing his faith with the young boy Eli. The second reading presents Paul sharing his faith with the Corinthians. And the gospel reading presents
John sharing his faith with two disciples, and with Andrew sharing his faith with his brother Peter.
Let us focus on the gospel reading and on Andrew, especially.
Significantly, John mentions Andrew three times in his Gospel. Each time Andrew is bringing someone to Jesus. Each time Andrew is sharing his faith.
In today’s reading, Andrew brings his brother Peter to Jesus. Eventually Jesus picks Peter to be the rock on which he builds his Church.
Later on, Andrew brings a boy with five loaves and two fish to Jesus. (See John 6:8.) And Jesus uses the loaves and fish to feed a great crowd of hungry people.
Finally, Andrew brings some Greek people to Jesus. (See John 12:20–22.) And Jesus uses the occasion to teach the people some important things.
This brings us back to our original question. If we really believe Jesus is the greatest treasure we can possess, why are we reluctant to share our treasure with other people?
One answer we often hear is that other people aren’t interested in Jesus.
An obvious response to that question is that many people thought the old man wasn’t interested in Jesus either. They probably thought to themselves, “If that old man had been interested in Jesus or in becoming a Catholic, he would have checked things out long ago.”
Some years back a Chicago high school teacher asked each member of his class to interview three people about prayer. The students were to ask them five questions: Do you pray? Do you pray daily, or only occasionally? Why do you pray? When you pray, how do you pray? Who taught you to pray?
Three surprises emerged from the student interviews.
First, the students were surprised how willing people were to talk about prayer. Second, the students were surprised how many people prayed daily. Third, the students were surprised how many of their close friends prayed. They had never discussed it before.
One student said of the interviews: “I thought my friends would make fun of the interview, but they didn’t. They respected it. One of my friends said he was glad to talk about something that really mattered.”
The girl concluded: “What I got out of the interview project was this: People do care about prayer.”
All of us have read magazine articles about how to become a better conversationalist, or how to improve our personality by improving our conversation. One thing these articles always stress is that we should talk about things that are personal and important to us.
And what is more personal and more important than faith in Jesus? A person who thinks people aren’t interested in these things should keep in mind the student survey. People not only cooperated with the survey but were eager to do so.
This brings us to an important point: We should share our faith with others.
Any person who things this isn’t important should keep in mind the story of the old man. Had the nurse not asked him about religion, he would have died without fulfilling his dream of becoming a Catholic.
And any person who thinks it isn’t important to share his or her faith with others should keep in mind today’s gospel.
Had Andrew not shared his faith with his brother Peter, Peter might never have become the rock upon which Jesus built his Church.
And had Andrew not shared his faith with the boy with the loaves and fish, the crowd on the hillside might have gone home hungry, and the Gospel may have gone without one of the most inspiring stories of all Scripture.
In conclusion, today’s gospel invites us to take a long, hard look at our reluctance to share our faith with others.
If we believe the Gospel is good news, and if we believe Jesus is the greatest treasure the human heart can possess, why are we so reluctant to share our faith with our own children, with our own friends, and with those people we know are searching for something to believe in?
This is the all-important question today’s gospel sets before each one of us.
No one can answer the question for us. We must answer it for ourselves, each in his or her own way.
But answer it we must. People are interested in our faith. And sharing our faith is important, critically important.
Let’s close with a prayer. Please follow along with me in silence:
Lord, teach each one of us that here on earth you have no hands but ours to reach out to the needy.
You have no heart but ours to embrace the lonely.
You have no voice but ours to share the message of why you lived, suffered, and died for us.
Lord, teach us that here on earth we are your hands, we are your voice, we are your heart.
Series II 2nd Sunday of the Year 1 Samuel 3:3–10, 19; 1 Corinthians 6:13–15, 17–20; John 1:35–42
He Touched Me Like Andrew, we should share our discovery of Jesus with others.
It’s been said that nothing is so persuasive to the human heart as is the story of another person’s discovery of God.
With that in mind, Irving Harris put together a book of stories about people’s discovery of God. He called the book He Touched Me.
One of the stories is about Bruce Larson, the well-known author, speaker, and pastor.
During World War II, Bruce fought in the European theater of war. When the war was over, he stayed on in Germany as part of the army of occupation.
Describing his life in postwar Germany, he says, “I felt that I was swimming in a sea of garbage. Worse yet, the garbage was inside me.’’
It was in this state of mind that Bruce was standing guard one night in a bombed-out building outside Stuttgart.
He was all alone and his thoughts turned to the state of his soul. He felt nothing but disgust for the way his spiritual life had gone downhill during his time in the army. Then Bruce did something unusual. He took his gun off his shoulder and leaned it against the brick wall. Next he put out his cigarette and knelt down.
As he lifted his eyes upward he could see millions of stars shining through the charred rafters of the bombed-out building. Then, with all the faith
“Lord, if you are really there, and if you really care, come down and take over my life.”
It was an unforgettable moment in an unforgettable night.
During the weeks and days ahead, Bruce began to experience quiet miracles in his life. His old materialistic values and goals fell away. And new spiritual values and goals replaced them.
He literally felt like a new person. And his life began to reflect the way he felt. He says of his inner transformation:
“At first, I told no one about it for fear that I was on a trip that wasn’t genuine or would not last.”
But it was genuine, and it did last. The point was now clear to Bruce.
That night in the bombed-out building in Stuttgart, Germany, he had met Jesus Christ just as surely as Andrew did in today’s gospel. And like Andrew, he had asked Jesus, “Where are you staying?’’ And Jesus said, “Come, and you will see.’’
Eventually, Bruce’s tour of duty in Germany ended and he returned to his home in Chicago. His new attitude toward life went with him. He writes:
“In those early months as a new civilian, I can remember vividly walking the streets in the Loop and on the Near North Side. . . .I felt that I knew the ultimate secret of life—that Jesus Christ wants to live in us and with us and share our lives. . . .
“As I walked the streets, I looked strangers in the eye and ached for them to know and to share my secret.
“I must have prayed silently for hundreds of people each week on my walks along Chicago streets.”
What Bruce was experiencing was the same thing that Andrew experienced after finding Jesus. Andrew, too, longed to share his discovery with others. And so he went to his brother Simon and shared his discovery with him.
And that’s what Bruce eventually did, too. He began to share his discovery of Jesus with others.
The story of Bruce and the story of Andrew illustrate an important point that we find in all conversion stories. Once you discover Jesus—really discover him—you want to share your discovery with others. That’s just how it is.
This leads us to the important question. How does all of this apply to us? It applies in two ways.
First, we too have discovered Jesus, as did Andrew in today’s gospel and as did Bruce in the bombed-out building.
Perhaps our discovery wasn’t as dramatic as theirs. Nevertheless, it was just as real. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be here today, gathered at the Lord’s Table, preparing to share the Lord’s Supper.
And this leads to the second point.
Like Andrew, and like Bruce, we too, after discovering Christ, longed to share our discovery with others.
And no doubt we did this by praying that others might find Jesus, as Bruce prayed during his walks in Chicago.
And no doubt we did this too by digging into our pocketbooks and contributing generously to the spread of the Gospel on earth.
But have we also taken the important step, as Andrew and Bruce did? Have we gone out and shared Jesus with others by our own word or example?
Jesus’ command to teach all nations was made not just to the clergy; it was made to everyone. Every Christian must preach the Gospel in some way. And so if we’re not praying faithfully for the missionary work of the Church, if we’re not contributing generously to the preaching of the Gospel to all nations, if we’re not witnessing personally to it by word or example, we’ve not yet heeded Christ’s command as he intended us to do.
We’ve not yet shared our discovery of Christ with others as completely as we could.
This is the practical, take-home message contained in the story of Andrew and the story of Bruce.
Let’s close with a prayer:
Lord, teach us that here on earth you have no voice but ours to preach the good news of Jesus to others.
Help us spread that good news not only by our prayers and by our material resources but also by our personal word and example.
Lord, teach us that here on earth we are, indeed, your hands; we are your voice; we are your heart.
Series III 2nd Sunday of the Year 1 Samuel 3:3b–10, 19; 1 Corinthians 6:13c–15a, 17–20; John 1:35–42
Share your faith Bring someone to the faith—or back to it.
Jesus saw two disciples following him, and he asked, “What are you looking for?” John 1:37 (adapted)
Astriking photograph in Atlanta’s leading newspaper showed a man and a woman kneeling side by side in Atlanta’s Catholic cathedral. What made the photo especially striking was the deep spirit of prayerfulness that radiated from each one.
The man was Eugene Genovese, a highly respected American historian. His book Roll Jordan Roll won several awards. The woman was his wife, Elizabeth, also a historian and the author of a prize-winning book entitled Within the Plantation Household.
Elizabeth once described herself as an adult nonbeliever, the product of an atheistic father and an agnostic Jewish mother. In time she became a feminist scholar and the founder of the women’s study program at Emory College.
As she progressed in her work, she became more and more troubled by the moral and intellectual stances of many of her peers.
Especially troubling was their stance on basic moral issues, like abortion. The bottom-line issue on abortion, she said, is not a woman’s rights over an unborn child’s rights. The bottom-line issue is the basic sanctity of human life.
One of the people who shared her views and exerted a positive influence on her was a Catholic professor and colleague.
To make a long story short, Elizabeth came to the Catholic Church, becoming a Catholic in 1995.
Once in the Church, she took a very active role in it, becoming a eucharistic minister and a lector in her parish.
That brings us back to Eugene. He grew up in an inactive Catholic family. At 15, he became a communist and a dedicated Marxist, with “no room for God” in his life. Eventually, he became one of the top Marxist scholars in the nation.
In the 1960s President Nixon tried to have him dismissed from the faculty of Rutgers University because of his communist sympathies during the Vietnam War.
He, too, became attracted to the Catholic Church. Through his experience and study, he became more and more convinced that Catholic social teaching—and not Marxism—provided “the only sound basis” for a worldview that was honorable and just. This conviction, and his wife’s example, led him to return to the Church—after being away from it almost all his life. Retold from an interview by Maria Ruiz Scaperlanda in Our Sunday Visitor (December 1999)
The joy of these two people upon entering the Church was great, and the desire to share their newfound faith with others brings us to today’s Gospel.
It describes Andrew discovering Jesus and sharing his newfound faith with his brother Peter. Significantly, Andrew is mentioned only three times in John’s Gospel, but each time it is to bring someone to Jesus.
In today’s reading, he brings his brother. Later on, he brings a boy with five loaves and two fish. John 6:8–9 Later, it is some Greek people. John 12:20–22
Had Andrew not brought his brother Peter to Jesus, Peter may never have become the rock on which Jesus built his Church.
Had Andrew not brought the boy with the loaves and fish to Jesus, the crowd Jesus fed with them would have gone home hungry, and the Gospel would have gone without one of its most inspiring miracles.
And had Andrew not brought the Greeks to Jesus, a vast segment of people may never have met Jesus. This brings us to an important point.
We all know people like the two historians and Peter in today’s Gospel. That is, we know people who are searching for a faith that they can embrace with all their heart. Or we know people—family members, relatives, or friends—who are inactive in their faith. Case studies of such people show that their conversion or return to the Church dated from the inspiration or invitation of a family member, friend, or relative. Take an example.
One Sunday morning, author Harry Paige went to Mass, as usual, in his parish church. He was surprised to see large sections of pews roped off with signs reading “Reserved.” He figured special guests were coming and wondered who they might be.
Mass began without anyone showing up. Then, when it came time for the homily, the priest said, “No doubt you’re wondering for whom we have reserved the seats.” Then he paused and said, “They’re for friends and family members—especially sons and daughters—who used to worship with us but no longer do.”
That episode inspired Paige to invite a friend who was inactive in his faith to attend Mass with him the next Sunday.
Paige was surprised when his friend accepted eagerly. In fact, he seemed to have been waiting for someone to invite him back. How tragic it would be had Paige failed to extend that invitation to his friend.
People often ask what they can do to spread the good news of the Gospel. One thing we all can do is to imitate Andrew and invite others to share the good news of our faith.
It goes without saying that we need to use tact and common sense in extending such an invitation.
Ideally, it will help if we can offer a specific reason for inviting people.
For example, there may be a special talk being given some evening during the week. Or we might invite them to attend Easter Sunday Mass with us and be our guests at breakfast.
In the final analysis, we should extend the invitation in a way we feel comfortable doing so. And we should extend it in a way that respects the people we invite.
Finally, it goes without saying that we should pray for guidance from the Holy Spirit in whatever we do.
Let’s close with this thought:
To reach out to people who are not ready to receive the Good News is a waste of time. But not to reach out to people who are ready is to deprive them of the greatest gift one human being can give another human being: the gift of Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Savior of us all.