Last month when our Online Bible Study Community was reading, writing, praying and studying the Acts of the Apostles we looked closely at Acts 20:19-21. In those verses, we read and reflected on how Paul lived among the people he was preaching and teaching to. He lived with all humility, with tears, with trials, he didn’t shrink from declaring anything that was profitable, he testified repentance to God, with absolute faith in Jesus.
Online Bible Study Community
I have a couple of favorite resources–starting points, when researching our Bible Studies and our live weekly Zoom calls: Different Bible Translations, Matthew Henry’s Commentary, and Fr. Hardon’s writings are at the top. As I was researching for the Zoom call I just mentioned, where we looked closer at Acts 20:19-21, I came across this quote from Fr. Hardon, “You don’t remain faithful to the Savior without paying for it.” Ah, that must be a part of the tears and trials Paul experienced while sharing the Good News.
I came across another quote equally explanatory and fitting I think, this one about Fr. Hardon. Fr. Groeschel said about Fr. Hardon, “He was utterly dedicated but not a fanatic. He was not an extremist because he won the inner battle. He resisted the temptation to resent or hate those who opposed him. He won the battle for love, for pure love–with no ego concerns.”
Now let’s go back to our buddy Paul. In case you don’t know his story, he was the king of extreme! We first hear about Paul when he held the coats of the people who were stoning St. Stephen to death. But wait, there’s more! He was a violent persecutor of Christians–like dragging even women and children out of their homes to persecute them!
Come to Jesus
And then, he had a literal “Come to Jesus” meeting. That meeting with Jesus–on the way to kill more Christians by the way, turned the once “King of Extreme” the guy who put the “Fan” in “Fanatic” into an utterly dedicated, but not fanatical or extreme follower of the risen Christ. And not only follower, but he also became a Good News spreading machine!
Let’s consider one more quote, “Kindness has converted more sinners than either zeal, eloquence or learning; and these last three have never converted anyone unless they were kind also.” –Fr. Faber.
Now, let’s start putting this all together. We, like St. Paul, are called to live around people and share Jesus with them. We are called to imitate St. Paul in that he lived with all humility, with tears, with trials, he didn’t shrink from declaring anything that was profitable, he testified repentance to God, with absolute faith in Jesus. We, like St. Paul, will pay for remaining faithful to the Savior. These are the givens in our calling to know, love, serve and share Jesus.
Fanaticism will get us nowhere. I mean, it sounds good right, being a “Jesus freak,” but really how effective is it? How many times have we seen or heard someone and thought to ourselves, “They seem like a freak, a fanatic, and extremist…I wanna be just like them!”
Now please, let’s not confuse fanaticism with enthusiasm; they are not the same thing. For reference, fanaticism is defined as overenthusiasm. Some synonyms are bigoty, extremism, hatred, intolerance. We can, and even should be enthusiastic for Jesus! But when we become overenthusiastic, rather than draw souls to Jesus, we can actually repel souls, Oof!
Be Who God Made You to Be
Here’s what I gathered from all of the above, just be real, just be authentic, just be who Jesus created and called us to be. There’s no need for a frenzied fanaticism or crazy extremism. In the words of St, Catherine of Sienna, “Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.” Or in the words of our Lord, don’t hide your light under a basket. Notice, He didn’t say pull it out from beneath the basket, turn it into a spotlight and go spotlighting people with it!
Sometimes, a great starting point in sharing Jesus is accepting that sometimes, good enough is actually good enough. And then sharing the simplicity of that message, letting the person we are sharing Jesus with know, they are good enough too. Not good enough that we just sit there like bumps on a log waiting for Jesus to come back and get us. Nope! Good enough that while we were still sinners, He chose to come and die a horrific death to save our souls.
We had a priest years ago who taught, “Grace builds on nature.” The example he always used was working in a crisis pregnancy center. He said unmarried women would come in for free pregnancy tests. While the women were there, the staff would introduce them to Natural Family Planning and encourage the women to come back to learn more. Our priest said people would scold the crisis pregnancy center for not preaching abstinence! He said, “First, let’s teach these girls to stop killing their babies with contraception, and then we can talk to them about the sanctity of life and living chastely.”
Grace Builds on Nature
What kind of response do you think the center would have gotten had they gone all in, double-barrel, abstinence-only, going to hell for premarital sex fanatical, soap-boxing? One and done is what I’m thinking. Those girls would have felt so defensive or so justified, so shamed, that they probably would not have gone back. But show them a little kindness…kindness they may not get anywhere else from anyone else? That might just what these women need to hear and it might just open the door, just a crack, to be able to start a little Jesus conversation?
Our priest and the clinic workers didn’t love Jesus any less or the world anymore because they lead with grace, mercy, compassion, and kindness over zealousness, fanaticism, and extremism. And now here’s where we tie it all together and it gets really good.
They were able to do that because it wasn’t about them. Remember what Fr. Groeschel said about Fr. Hardon? “He won the battle for love–pure love, with no ego concerns.”
When we lead with kindness and compassion, we leave our ego behind; it’s not about us anymore. It’s not about how many people we evangelize, it’s about the one standing right in front of us (or on the other side of the screen). It’s not about what we can do, it’s about what Christ has done. Oh, that’s good!
So here’s our call, to love and serve like St. Paul, with all humility, with tears, trials, a boldness in declaring anything profitable, modeling the way of repentance to God with an absolute faith in Jesus Christ.