When Jesus started his earthly ministry, prompted by his mother, Mary, he and his friends were guests at a wedding feast. The wine had run out and to avoid embarrassment, Jesus acceded to his mother’s request and changed water into wine, not just any old wine, but the very best.
During His ministry, Jesus performed two recorded miracles to feed the vast crowds that followed him and listened to his preaching. He called fishermen, to be his first followers and he sacrament of the Eucharist was instituted at a meal with close friends.
After his resurrection, he appeared to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus and after explaining the scriptures to them, he sat down with them at supper and broke bread. He also cooked breakfast for his disciples on the beach and ate with them.
There are massive signposts here for us today! The way to evangelise is to provide hospitality and by this I do not mean people handing out hymn books and newsletters as you enter church, important though this greeting is, it is only a start.
We need to ensure that everyone who comes to church is made to feel welcome. If a child cries in his mother’s arms, do we tut? I hope not. We should get to know the child’s name and help the mother who is probably feeling stressed herself! We might well provide a place in our churches for a child to be comforted but why not go with the mother and stay with her if she wishes, not just point to a sign or a door. After all, we are all children of God!
We also need to know how to talk about our faith. We do not need to be great theologians (that would just put people off!) but we do need to know the basics and there are many resources available to help. Parishes need to organise evenings where we can share our faith and this is best done in a welcoming hospitable atmosphere. Put chairs around table, start with refreshments, encourage everyone to introduce themselves to one another, allow time to socialise, wear name badges if that helps.
Once we are seen as welcoming communities, then we can start to invite others (evangelise) to come to our activities and to come to Mass with us where we will need to take time to get to know the person better and explain what is happening.
Websites, posters, Parish Councils, summer fetes etc. are all very well, but we need to make each person feel welcome, as though we were inviting Jesus himself, then we can start to evangelise.