A personal invitation 24 years ago changed my life.
A colleague at work, Paul Carswell, invited me to go to lunch with him. He was a deeply committed evangelical Protestant familiar with the Bible, and he knew I was a Catholic. I was a little apprehensive because I thought that he was going to ask me why I believed in those
particularly Catholic beliefs such as the pope, Mary, the saints, sacraments, etc. and I didn’t have a good biblical answer.
In the two weeks before the lunch, I actively searched the internet and discovered to my amazement the writings of Scott Hahn, a staunchly anti-Catholic evangelical Protestant pastor and biblical scholar who, after a considerable period of intense study of the early Church Fathers and Scripture, converted to Catholicism. I stayed up late each night eagerly reading Hahn’s writings and learned, to my relief, that what the Catholic Church teaches is deeply rooted in Scripture. One example is that the closest possible personal relationship we can have with Jesus is to become spiritually and physically united with him in His flesh, the Eucharist (John 6:52-57)—the “most profound mystery” (Ephesians 5:32)—in the liturgical community of the Church where the new covenant of Jesus’ blood (Luke 22:20) makes Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and his resurrected body truly sacramentally present at Mass, a covenantal fulfillment alluded to in many books of the Old and New Testaments.
This “opening of the Scripture”—like Jesus did for the disciples on the road to Emmaus—was life-changing for me. It began a 24-year fascinating journey (which continues today) of discovery of Catholic teaching preserved in Scripture and Tradition by the Church for 2000
years. It was life-changing for Paul too: as I shared with him what I was learning, he undertook several years of concentrated study of the early Church and Scripture and converted to Catholicism.
The Lord worked mightily through Paul in a way that neither he nor I could have imagined. And it all started with an invitation.
I never cease to be amazed at the great grace and love God pours into our hearts (Rom 5:5) when we, like Paul, participate in the Holy Spirit’s work of conversion by reaching out to others and inviting them to encounter Christ. Personal invitations—such as inviting someone to join you at Mass or Eucharistic Adoration or a parish event or ministry you’re enthusiastic about, or to a meal to mutually share your faith—stretch us, keep us on our knees pleading for God’s grace, and bear much fruit because it’s the Holy Spirit who’s at work in us as His instruments. I’ve experienced this hundreds of times talking with fellow travelers on the airplane, some of which resulted in conversions to Christ and others who decided to return to practicing their Catholic faith. Jesus sent his disciples “to every town and place where he himself intended to go” (Luke 10:1), and calls us to do the same: to prepare the hearts and minds of those we know so that Jesus can enter their lives (Rev 3:20).
When we do this—when we go “out on a limb” like Zacchaeus—and invite others directly or indirectly to encounter Christ, the Holy Spirit moves hearts. I’m reminded of the “3 in 1” initiatives that I’ve introduced in three parishes where hundreds of parishioners signed up to the challenge of praying and personally inviting “3 people in 1 year” to parish events, Mass, etc. which resulted in family members returning to the Church for Mass and the sacraments, friends coming to Bible studies or faith sharing groups, and in some cases conversions to Catholicism.
Paul Carswell’s personal invitation changed my life, or, rather, the Holy Spirit changed my life through Paul Carswell. Jesus is ready and waiting to send you and me to those he himself intends to visit, which is every person He has brought into your life and mine. Do we pray to hear His invitation?
Father Jim Bors graduated from Mount Saint Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, MD in May 2022 and was ordained a priest of Jesus Christ on June 18, 2022 at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen in Baltimore. His home parish is St. Andrew by the Bay near Annapolis, and he has been
assigned as Associate Pastor to the Pastorate of Our Lady of the Chesapeake in Pasadena and St. Jane Frances de Chantal in Riviera Beach effective July 1. Please pray for Father Jim Bors.