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Holy Spirit Interactive: Fr. Peter deSousa: Children can teach us how to evangelize

Children can teach us how to evangelize

by Fr. Peter deSousa

I was told a story by a young lady who came for baptism some years ago. Mona was given away, as a child, by her mother to a rich relative to educate, since they were very poor. She was smart and excelled at her studies. When she was 7 years old, the foster mother withdrew her from school and made her work in the house and look after her grandson.

One day while Mona was in the park with the boy, a school friend of hers named Cynthia saw her and ran up to greet her. "Where have you been all this while? Why are you not coming to school?" she enquired. Mona cried and told Cynthia about her sorry state. Cynthia replied: "I know someone, who can help you. His name is Jesus. He is the most loving and kindest person you could ever approach. He will surely help you." "Where can I meet Jesus"? Mona enquired. Cynthia replied: "Oh Jesus is everywhere. Just speak to him and he will hear you. I have to go now. Bye-bye."

So Mona began to speak to Jesus and pour out to him her hurts and needs and dreams. She imagined him to be the kindest Uncle she could have. A few months later, she was allowed to resume school again. Jesus had heard her prayers.

Mona continued to speak to "Uncle Jesus" for the next 15 years. She did well in school and became an air-hostess. One day she came across an article about those who wanted to know Jesus as their personal Saviour and Lord and she came to our Church. This is where I met her. A year later she was baptized and continues now to bring others to Jesus.

Cynthia was only 7 years old, but she evangelized Mona. Suzy was only 4 years old when she evangelized her mother's friend, who had stopped going to Church.

It happened like this. Suzy's Mum had lunch ready for her 4 small children when she was asked to accompany her neighbour to hospital. The neighbour had started labour pains and was alone. Just then an old college friend turned up unexpectedly. It was a blessing in disguise. "If you would oblige, please serve the children their lunch. The food is ready. I have to rush. Thanks a lot", Suzy's mother told her friend.

So the children were served their lunch but they did not eat. Suzy said: "Auntie, you have to say grace before meals."

The college friend who had not practised her faith for ages had forgotten the grace. So she asked Suzy to pray instead. 4 year old Suzy prayed so spontaneously and beautifully for their neighbour who was going to have a baby, for this kind auntie who was looking after them and she thanked God for the food. It brought tears to the lady's eyes. Suzy gave her back her lost faith by this little prayer.

I am not surprised because Jesus tells us that we will have to become like children again to enter the kingdom of Heaven. The mysteries of the Kingdom that are hidden from the wise and the learned are revealed to mere babes. Children forgive so easily and their hurts and anger are short-lived. Happy are those children, who learn from parents to trust in Jesus at a tender age and to know him as a dear friend. Happier still are those parents who relearn from their children how to trust in Jesus. Children evangelize so powerfully because they have no guile.

There are two principles in evangelising that are very effective. One is to see a need and fill it. The second is to see a hurt and heal it. It could be that people need a job or a home and you are able to help them. But there are other needs, like the need for love, for self esteem, for belonging which you can meet through a friendly smile, a kind word, a helping hand, or an invitation to share a meal. This gives you entry into their world. Table fellowship with sinners was Jesus' way of befriending prostitutes, drunkards and tax collectors, who were despised by the Pharisees and priests. It does not cost us very much to reveal the love that Jesus has to those in need.

We also meet many people who are hurt and bitter. Many experience frustration, anger, fear, anxiety, helplessness, self pity or sadness. Listening to their hurt feelings patiently and accompanying them in their experience of Gethsemane with a prayer, gives us entry into their broken lives.

People in need and people who are hurt are the most vulnerable to evangelization. That is why so many are taken advantage of by the born again sects who prey on them at such times. Let us ask the Holy Spirit to use us and send us to bring them to Jesus and Jesus to them. The Holy Spirit will soften our hard hearts, humble our proud hearts, tenderize our cynical hearts and give us the heart of a child, if we ask him to do so. A child is humble and docile to the prompting of the Holy Spirit. In a kindergarten a child is ready to learn from his teacher and is so pliable in the teacher's hands. The Holy Spirit is our Teacher.

Jesus has no voice other than ours today to bring the good news of Abba father's love and his redeeming love to those who are in need and who are hurt. Will we allow Him to send us to them? The Spirit will put into our mouths the words we should speak at the appropriate time. All evangelization is the work of the Holy Spirit. He empowers those who have the heart of little children to touch the lives of those in need. Offer him yours. As you look at your children and grand-children, learn from them how to become a child again.

Fr. Peter deSousa (October 20, 2004)

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