Sharing the Gift of Jesus this Christmas
On Monday, the Gospel reading at daily Mass was Luke’s version of the story of the paralytic man whose friends lowered him through the roof into Jesus’ presence so Jesus could heal him. They were so eager to help their sick friend find healing and renewal they wouldn’t let a crowd block their way. Jesus says it is the faith of the man’s friends and not the sick man’s faith that heals him.
Some Bible scholars interpret the gospels’ healing stories not so much as physical healings but spiritual ones. As Catholics, we are not Biblical literalists. While we believe Jesus can, even today, brings physical healings. Our faith isn’t diminished in any way if Jesus’ healings were spiritual ones. It doesn’t weaken Jesus’ powers if, in reality, Jesus healed the sick man from a spiritual paralysis rather than a physical one. All of us know people who suffer because they have paralysis of spirit that prevents them from living the fullness of life. They suffer from a sense of brokenness no less severe than those who use a wheelchair because they have lost physical movement.
This holiday season is an excellent time to try to help people we know who suffer spiritual paralysis. During the holidays, we will meet with family members and friends estranged from God. Some may feel hurt by God. Others have just drifted away from a meaningful relationship with Jesus. When we celebrate the coming of Jesus Christ into our world, this Christmas is an excellent time for us to lower them into the presence of Christ so Jesus can heal them.
Evangelization is a word from which many Catholics shy away. For many, it conjures up negative images of overbearing street preachers. Patrick Lencioni is a Catholic layman who co-founded an organization called Amazing Parish. Lencioni, in “real life,” is a business consultant. He has a kind of rah-rah type of personality, but in a Christmas message, he suggested a Christmas evangelization technique that everyone can try that isn’t arrogant or overbearing.
Lencioni notes that all of us will be in contact with family and friends over the holidays, whom we know aren’t engaged with faith. How can we reach out to them and try to do a little evangelization? Lencioni says we can ask a none threatening question like, “Is there something in your life I can pray for?” Coronavirus social distancing may cut into the number of opportunities we have to speak with people. However, the ones we have can offer chances for our conversations to be less superficial. FaceTime and Zoom conversations might provide opportunities to connect on a deeper, more personal level.
Lencioni says, don’t be surprised if people get a little emotional as they share their need for prayer. Our current situation is troubling to so many people. Assure them that you will keep them in your prayers. Better yet, say a short spontaneous prayer and maybe wrap it all together by saying the Our Father together. Make a further impact by asking them to pray for you. Maybe share something going on in your life that you wish they would pray for too. After all, praying for each other is so essential for the Christian community. This Christmas, give the best gift of all. Give your loved ones and acquaintances the gift of the presence of Jesus Christ in their lives and a deeper relationship with God.