14 More Ways to Help Bring God into the World
The world has its problems and God is the solution.
Following up on my recent list of 13 things for Christians to do to evangelize the world, here are 14 more ways to bring Christ to the world:
1. Stand up for Christianity. Stand up for the Church. Stand up for Christ. When confronted by bigoted, closed-minded, anti-Christian opinions, it is incumbent upon us to lovingly teach and inform. Christ's love is the answer to ignorance, hatred and bigotry. If not, what exactly is it that we believe in as a faith community? The world is becoming increasingly hostile toward Christians and Christianity. One cause of this animosity is our reluctance to confront it. Many times I've had to correct misinformed, anti-Christian people and their illogical ahistoricity. As Martin Luther King, Jr. asserted, “There is nothing more dangerous than intentional stupidity or conscientious ignorance.” Live your life as if it were not really your life. It, like all things in the universe, belongs to God and we are only stewards of His creation. Keeping this in mind, it is easy to understand the courage that our saints had as they lived their lives in Christ. The history of the Church is replete with hagiographies of martyrs who either intentionally sought out their deaths or accepted their fate knowing that Christ waited to welcome them into His kingdom. Not everyone is courageous enough to seek out a martyr's crown, but all of us should pray for the strength to be strong in the face of persecution from the unenlightened and unconverted.
2. Receive Holy Communion worthily and frequently. John Paul II pointed out to us that the Eucharist contains in itself the “world's principle and eternal source of salvation.” Participation in the celebration of the Eucharistic sacrifice is therefore the most effective missionary act in which the Faithful can participate. We shouldn't deny ourselves this glorious gift from our the Father. We should avail ourselves of its benefits as often as possible.
3. The Sacrament of Reconciliation. Go to confession!
4. Offer to pray for those in need. A Jewish friend of mine was surprised when I offered to pray for his ailing mother. He was surprised but ultimately thanked me. He came to understand that my faith was the standard by which I ordered my universe. It was an evangelizing moment for us both. James writes that Christians should pray for those in need, so that they might be healed. He further assures us that the prayer of a good person is particularly efficacious (James 5:16). St. Cyprian of Carthage reminds us that the teacher of Peace and the Master of Unity does not seek out prayers made individualistically. For example, we do not say, "My Father, who art in Heaven." Therefore our prayer is public and common—we pray for the whole people, because we, the whole people, are one. By praying for those who are suffering and those who have died, we become one with them. We show them our compassion for them and, further, we remind ourselves of our proper relationship with the Creator. We supplicate. He provides. As St. Augustine taught, "Work as if all depend upon you—pray as if all depended upon Christ."
5. Recognize the liturgical calendar in one's life. We as a faith community measure time in terms of ecclesiastical seasons and individual feast days. Classic literature is replete with references to the uniquely Christian way time had been reckoned. It is a loss to our society that such references are uncommon outside of Church other than calendric references such as St. Patrick's Day and St. Valentine's Day. Make space in your family room or dinner table for an Advent wreath. Lavishly decorate for Christmas and Easter. They cheer the spirit and serve as inspiring symbols of our faith. One family of my acquaintance took it upon themselves to create their own Christian-inspired banners including ones for Lent, Advent, Pentecost, Ash Wednesday, Mardi Gras, Corpus Christi and for the patronal saints of each member of the family. They hang them outside of their home and change them as the liturgical seasons progress.
6. Devotions to the angels, saints and Mary. For millennia, Christians have had recourse to Mary's intercession. It is sad commentary of contemporary Christian society when such a thing as a Marian devotion raises an eyebrow among those who wish to judge others. Mary serves as the perfect model for all Christians, for men, women, children, teens, mothers and for anyone who has sought to develop a Christocentric life.
7. Join parish prayer/Bible study groups. Parish prayer and study groups are a great opportunity to meet other Christians who are struggling with the same types of feelings and questions about the Faith. Hopefully the group leader will have made in-depth studies of prayer and scripture. As St. Cyprian of Carthage reminds us, “Be constantly committed to prayer and to reading Scripture—by praying, you speak to God, in reading, God speaks to you.”
8. Proselytize…with charity The advantages of proselytizing far outweigh the emotional encumbrances and possible discomfiture one might feel. First, we have the opportunity to explain our beliefs to others who might not understand them. Second, with the Spirit's assistance, we might even convince others of the wisdom and reality of our beliefs. Trust in Christ and allow Him to speak through you.
9. Pray the Angelus. The Angelus is a short prayer that is flexible enough to be used as an individual or group devotion. It is a liturgy dedicated to that cosmic-altering moment of Christ's Incarnation on Earth. With a gentle ringing, the Faithful are reminded to pray three times each day: at 6 a.m., to commemorate Christ's resurrection, at noon to honor Christ's passion and at 6 p.m. to remember the Incarnation. Think of the three times that the Angelus bells call us to prayer as opportunities for conversion and peace. No matter what you're doing, use the pause to give thanks to God. Take the time to accept His love and His healing. The formulaic nature of the Angelus prayer offers a refreshing, mindless simplicity that allows us to be in the moment, God's moment, three times every day. For those who live or work out of hearing range of a church's bells, one can easily set one's wristwatch or cellphone to alert one as to when to pray the Angelus. One bell's ringing is as good as the next.
10. Develop your prayer life. For two millennia, Christian saints have passed on their thoughts on prayer and yet too many of us ignore this important aspect of our lives. St. John of the Cross wrote that “Whoever flees prayer, flees all that is good.” St. Ephraem offers a more practical perspective. For him, prayer forms virtues in our hearts—it protects us from anger, pride and envy. Mother Teresa of Calcutta taught that prayer enlarges the heart until it is capable of containing God's gift of Himself. Thomas Merton wrote that prayer was an expression of who we are—a living incompleteness…an emptiness that calls for fulfillment. And that fulfillment can only come from God the Inexhaustible. Prayer is not so much a way to find God as a way of resting in Him. Prayer was never meant to be a burdensome duty. It is a privilege that we have to communicate with the God that created us. These are joyous moments. Without prayer in our lives, what chance do we have of knowing the nature of True Love? (1 John 3:11-18)
11. Seek spiritual direction. A magnificent resource we have as Christians are the many nuns, monks and priests that serve the Church and, if approached, can be at our disposal to offer spiritual advice. I think it's highly desirable to find a spiritual adviser who can also serve as a confessor but this is a choice each individual Christian will have to make for him or herself.
12. Don't give up hope. In our weakness, the Spirit helps us. Even in our spiritual confusion, when we do not know in what direction to turn, the Spirit Himself intercedes for us when our groans express that which words cannot. (Romans 8:26) If we willingly give up our access to God's grace, if we do not reach out to accept God's outstretched loving hand, we block Him out of our lives. It is in our darkest hours of disappointment that God seeks to reach out to us. As Thomas Merton pointed out, “Prayer and love are learned in the hour when prayer becomes impossible and your heart has turned to stone.”
13. Petition your political leaders. In a democracy, every voice must be respected not just the loud, obnoxiously nihilistic ones. We have the right to free expression especially when people are trying to shut us out. Speak up and allow God's Spirit to do the talking for you.
14. Pray constantly. In developing any relationship, one must set aside time specifically dedicated to being together with that person. When developing a relationship with Christ, that time is spent in prayer. Without an active spirituality, religion becomes little more than magic. Time spent with Christ in prayer will illuminate and magnify your life profoundly.
The world has its problems and God is the solution. As Blessed Mother Teresa said, “We are His hands, His feet, His smile, His patience.. When we love because of His Will, we make God present, we make Him ‘touchable’ as you could say. We can make His love material.”