Today was my first day taking part in a popular evangelization series being run in churches all over the world.
As I walked into the room, I was greeted with enthusiasm by at least three people of whom I see regularly at Mass. The lady at the check-in table was extremely happy to see me, marking off my name and joyfully telling me my table assignment.
I recognized many of the people in the room. Most I have worshipped with for decades. There were a few new faces. Everyone was very eager for the session to begin.
The smiling hostess told a joke and made us feel welcome. The lunch was delicious.
We watched a short video that began with the question, "Who is Jesus?" The rest of the video, slickly done with beautiful videography and stunning scenes from the Holy Land, went on to "prove" that Jesus existed. The video’s presenter was a former lawyer-turned minister. He smiled broadly as he finished the clip, assured that he had given us what we needed to know that Jesus was "real."
In the time that has passed since I left the class, I have been thinking a lot about the experience. I realized a few things about myself and the assumption that we all come to know Jesus through the same process.
I was a young child, about five, when I had a profound experience of Jesus. There is no doubt in my mind that I had a very personal and life-changing encounter with Divine Love. I can honestly say that from that moment on, I knew Jesus was real and loved me very much.
My path to Jesus did not begin with an intellectual study of books and Scripture. That all came after that first, very personal encounter with radiating, unconditional love that I somehow, at that young age, knew was Jesus.
I wonder in these days of trying to figure out how to bring people into a conversion experience if we aren't going about it the wrong way. It’s as if we are assaulting them with Jesus. Proofs and facts, arguments and debates. We are intellectualizing what should be intimately personal.
Jesus is a human being with whom we are invited to be in relationship. He is God, fully Divine, with whom we are to enter into the mystery. Jesus envelopes us and fills us. He transforms our very being. Jesus wells up from within us, overtakes us and fills us.
I think coming to know Jesus is so much more than a lawyer laying down the facts or a scientist proving hypotheses.
I have concluded there is no one-size-fits-all path to Jesus. As unique as each of us is, our path to Jesus is equally distinctive. I am convinced the key to evangelization is building relationships with those around us. Seeing each other as people to be loved. Desiring to share what we have with others and longing for their happiness. Being with them in their woundedness so that through prayer they are consoled and made whole through the healing power of God. Loving ourselves and each other as the vulnerable people we are and allowing Jesus to transform our every cell and fiber with His Love.
When we do, we will know Jesus in profound ways. Our thirst for Him will compel us forward, to learn about Him, be with Him, and joyfully share Him with others.