Ultimately, a TV commercial is an invitation: after presenting to you all of the information about their amazing product or service, the sponsors invite you to join “other satisfied customers.” They then provide you with a phone number, a website address, and convenient locations so that you can avoid being left out.
At the heart of Jesus’ message is an invitation. In fact, the Gospels tell us that Jesus was constantly inviting people to follow him:
- “Come and have breakfast.” (John 21:12)
- “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.” (Matthew 4:19)
- “Go, sell what you own…then come, follow me.” (Mark 10:21)
- “Come to me, all you that are weary…and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
- “Come and see.” (John 1:39)
- “Follow me.” (John 1:43)
The thing I love most about the last two examples is that upon accepting Jesus’ invitation, Andrew and Philip immediately proceed to extend the invitation to others: Andrew to his brother Simon Peter (John 1:41) and Philip to Nathaniel (John 1:46). Pope Paul VI famously wrote, “It is unthinkable that a person should accept the Word and give himself to the kingdom without becoming a person who bears witness to it and proclaims it in his turn.” (Evangelii Nuntiandi, 24)
In a general sense, our catechesis is an invitation to follow Jesus. However, evangelizing catechists take it a step further and issue specific invitations for those they teach to deepen their commitment to Christ: invitations to retreats, opportunities to engage in works of mercy, opportunities to be engaged in liturgical ministries, opportunities for Bible study or to hear an inspirational speaker, and so on.
Permit me to share an example of an invitation I received as an adolescent that had a profound impact on my life. When I was in high school, I took up playing guitar, determined to be a rock star! My chemistry teacher, Fr. Terry Baum, SJ, took notice and invited me to accompany him at our school liturgies at St. Ignatius College Prep. I had no particular interest in liturgical music, but I thought Fr. Terry was pretty cool and so I accepted his invitation.
The experience of playing at these liturgies had a major impact on me. In no time, I got in touch with the coordinator of music at my parish and joined the guitar choir where I met my wife Joanne. While I never became a rock star, I did become liturgy director at the high school where I taught and later at the parish where I served as DRE. One small invitation can make a huge difference in the life of a young person!
I didn’t realize it at the time, but Fr. Terry was practicing Catholic evangelization. He wasn’t asking me if I was saved, born again, or had a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. However, his invitation led to me encountering our Savior, Jesus Christ, and developing a life-changing relationship with him.
Now, it’s our turn. As catechists and teachers, we need to be on the lookout for opportunities to invite young people to use their gifts to serve others and, in doing so, to encounter Christ. It’s our job to invite, invite, invite!
Read the other articles in the How to Be a More Evangelizing Catechist series.
Download a flyer of the nine strategies. Go deeper with these ideas by reading my book, Under the Influence of Jesus: The Transforming Experience of Encountering Christ.