In this Lent 2017, we Catholics need to reflect on ways of winning people back to Jesus.  One way is a deliberate attempt to bring people to Christ by befriending them.  As soon as some hear this, they might wonder, “Can that be right?  Should we befriend people just to bring them to Christ?”  Absolutely!  The greatest reason to befriend someone is Jesus Christ.  The greatest gift we can give a friend is Jesus Christ.  If we are truly someone’s friend, we want what is best for him or her.  What can be better for anyone than to come to Jesus and gain eternal life with Him? 

It may seem like it will take an eternity to help some people accept that gift of eternal life, but we need to be clear from the beginning that this service demands a whole lot of time.  We need to spend time with  people, share our lives with them.  It will not be sufficient to bring them to Catholic services of social events.  That might expose them to the gospel, which is a good way to begin, but to bring them into a personal relationship with Jesus, we must invest time.  This can be difficult because we all have full schedules.  But by inviting people into our lives instead of adding a lot of extra time commitments, we can keep our lives in order and still do the evangelizing that is needed. 

This can be done by working on natural contacts like friends or relatives or neighbors.  We normally have many natural opportunities to talk to them and build stronger relationships.  The same is true of people at work or school whom we see on a regular basis.  Another natural place for building relationships is at our children’s school or teen center or sporting events.

People who are new to our neighborhood, workplace, or school are often looking for a sense of belonging.  We should use these natural opportunities to befriend them with the clear purpose of bringing them into a deeper faith  relationship with our parish, and of course with Jesus. 

Once we’ve built relationships of friendship and trust, we should begin to convey the good news of Jesus clearly.  Our speech is important in this work.  To effectively share Jesus, we must learn how to converse effectively and persuasively.  The only way we are going to learn and to feel comfortable with it is to just do it.

This alertness to these opportunities requires that we become good listeners as well as good conversationalists.  We ought to avoid thinking about our message and what we are going to say next so much that we don’t hear the other person and come to understand where people are in the Lord so that we can help them move on in their faith. 

Remember, our goal is to build a relationship that will bring another person closer to Jesus.  We need to invest time.  We need to listen.  Then we can share with others the words of eternal life.  Maybe this can be our task during Lent 2017.