SECOND SUNDAY OF THE YEAR CYCLE B
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’er the first one.”
This true story raises an embarrassing question. Why do so many of us 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 Eli sharing his faith with the young boy Samuel. 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 this brother Peter.
Let us focus on the gospel reading 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 (john6:8). And Jesus uses the loaves and fish to feed a great crowd of hungry people. Finally, Andrew brings some Greek people to Jesus(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 nin 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 asked 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 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 that 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 thinks 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.