Pope Francis has been persistently reminding us as disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ to preach the Good News wherever we may be. The initial conversation about salvation, he tells us, begins with an encounter with Jesus who reveals the love and mercy of the Father. For most people, even many Christians, a personal, intimate relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ simply doesn’t exist.
Because I spend so much time in airports and planes, and because I wear the collar of a priest, I have many opportunities to speak about Jesus and His Church. This has happened while waiting to board a plane, walking between gates, sitting in an airport restaurant or waiting to collect my luggage. While studying to be a priest, I never imagined my “pulpit” would be so unconventional.
As you would expect I meet a wide variety of people in these situations, and many aren’t Christians. People may not even know that they are searching or what they are searching for, but their questions and comments speak volumes about their situations, beliefs and pain.
Once on a return flight from Rome, I spent nearly ten hours speaking to a very curious non-baptized woman about the Church’s teaching on baptism, chastity, marriage, divorce, contraception, abortion, homosexuality and the pope. On another occasion, when traveling to Eastern Europe, two flight attendants (male and female) approached me and asked if I could speak with them later during the flight. At three in the morning they sat at my feet in the aisle asking questions about the Sacrament of Marriage and the steps necessary to get married.
The Lord often shows His great sense of humor in these encounters. While waiting during a six hour delay in the terminal, a young woman approached me and asked if she could talk with me. We spent the hours discussing the moral issues around contraception and abortion. She struggled with the issue and mostly accepted secular views. Thinking our conversation complete when the gate attendants called for boarding, we realized we were assigned to the same row and seated next to each other, where our conversation continued for several more hours. Prior to disembarking, I could tell she still had something on her heart. I truly believe she had had an abortion and was searching for answers and healing. I gave her my card, told her I would pray for her and hoped she would continue to search for truth.
Pope Francis asks us, the disciples of Jesus, to reveal through our words, actions and lives the love and mercy of Jesus. Despite what many have said, he is not casting aside the Church’s teaching, but helping us recognize that most people don’t know the authentic Jesus revealed in the Gospels.
In daily encounters we have with our neighbors, friends, family members, etc. do we reflect Jesus? Do we present an occasion for Jesus to minster through us? Or are we a distraction… or worse?
Think of the example and life of Saint Mother Teresa. She first reflected the face of Jesus, addressed the immediate needs of the person while at the same time introducing the soul to the One who brings peace, joy and love – the Lord of Life.
Evangelization involves a re-introduction of Jesus within cultures in which we live. If we want to reverse the destructive forces pervasive within society, we must start with Jesus, the Good Shepherd, the Prince of Peace, the Redeemer of the world. Even at thirty seven thousand feet.
As always, St. Paul says it better than I can:
But how can they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone to preach? And how can people preach unless they are sent? As it is written, how beautiful are the feet of those who bring [the] good news! (Romans 10:14-15)