This week, we engage in discussions of the transformative power of forgiveness, and its incredible potential as a force for evangelization. Forgiving ourselves and forgiving others allows us to enter more fully into the light of Christ, making our faith experiences more loving, positive, and open, which in turn encourages us to share those wonderful, warm experiences.
I thought long and hard about a practical way to bring evangelization and forgiveness together into one theme for this week — reflection and discernment are incredible exercises, but they often leave us wanting for some kind of concrete conclusion or action item that we can apply in a more general setting. Eventually, through reading all kinds of tips and tricks for evangelization, thinking, and many, many rough drafts, this week’s evangelization tip came to me: say the name.
Prayer is such a big part of evangelization: praying for ourselves, that we might live as the examples of Christ that we are called to be, praying for others, that their hearts and minds might see the light and the love that guides faith, and praying for a kinder, gentler society, that it might welcome the joys of belief and belonging that so often seem to be forgotten.
So say the name of the person you are praying for. It can be hard to stay focused when praying — drifting off into thoughts unrelated to the prayers at hand (as one is almost guaranteed to do) can often end with our forgetting the purpose of the prayer in the first place. Using the person’s name keeps the prayer real, and really present. Repeat their name over and over in the course of the prayer, and keep the focus on praying into that person. This can be especially helpful as we look to forgive others, and pray kindness and patience into their lives, as well as your own.
Science has shown that we are acutely attuned to the sound of our own names — we can pick out someone shouting our name in a crowded room and can even recognize our names even under deep sedation. Our names have power to informing our identities, and acknowledgement of these identities set us up for positive prayer.
It might be hard to find someone in the New Testament who exemplifies the spirit of evangelization (besides Jesus, of course) better than St. Paul. His epistles to the Corinthians, the Ephesians, the Thessalonians, and others are full of treatises to the people that they pray for themselves and others, joyfully, and always — “With all prayer and supplication, pray at every opportunity in the Spirit. To that end, be watchful with all perseverance and supplication for...me that speech may be given me to open my mouth to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel,” (Ephesians 6:18-19).
Paul uses their names, references to their hometowns, and always the greeting “brothers and sisters.” He keeps his prayer and ministry personal, spreading the good news individually to the masses, as we should strive to do this week. Don’t change yourself (you are already fearfully and wonderfully made), change a word — and use the name.
--Claire Kosewic, Staff Bulletin Writer
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