KARASZEWKSI: Have you told your story lately?

November 26, 2019

I recently went to a wedding party where the groom, at the time of the toast, chose to share how God had changed his life. While he was sharing “his story” and half of the guests were teary, I thought to myself: “this is unconventional; this is not what usually happens in a wedding toast.”

At the party, my husband and I were assigned to a table full of strangers. To my right was an older man with whom I started a conversation, and in that conversation, I asked him what was his story? And he replied to me: “Do you mean where do I work?” I said: “No. Would you mind sharing with my husband and me the story of your life? Just like the groom did?”

I have to admit he was brave, but long story short, he shared with us the story of his life. He shared that he was divorced, his children are all grown up, and that he was searching for something in his life, but he was not sure what it was. In turn, we shared our testimonies with him. I shared my successes, my failures and how, when I was young, I allowed God to enter my life during a retreat and that my life had never been the same since then.

At the end of the night, he told me: “please take my number and let me know when one of those events you call “‘retreat, which changes your life’ comes around.”

Evangelli Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel) reminds us how, like this groom at the wedding, we should be unconventional and share the good news of our lives with others.

“Being a disciple means being constantly ready to bring the love of Jesus to others, and this can happen unexpectedly and in any place: on the street, in a city square, during work, on a journey. Today, as the Church seeks to experience a profound missionary renewal, there is a kind of preaching which falls to each of us as a daily responsibility. It has to do with bringing the Gospel to the people we meet, whether they be our neighbors or complete strangers.” (EG #127)

Have we prepared our elevator speeches, and are we ready to share our testimony with a stranger? Hasn’t the good Lord touched our lives in one way or another? Are we willing to share those simple moments of love or forgiveness with our neighbors? Have we practiced to listen to the other person’s story before we share ours?

The Joy of the Gospel states three steps on the person-to-person evangelization: First, you listen, then you share, and finally (if the circumstances allow it) you pray together.

“In this preaching, which is always respectful and gentle, the first step is personal dialogue, when the other person speaks and shares his or her joys, hopes and concerns for loved ones, or so many other heartfelt needs.” (EG #128).

It was the Joy of the Gospel that inspired me during this wedding to ask this perfect stranger seating next to me to share with us the story of his life. The groom’s speech helped by setting the example and mood for this to happen.

A year later, I am happy to share that this stranger participated in a men’s ACTS retreat and experienced God’s unconditional love and mercy in his life. And he is no longer a stranger but a friend to our family.

I invite you to practice sharing your story with your loved ones, share the moments you witnessed Christ was alive. Then go out of your parish boundaries, out of your comfort zone and share it with those in peripheries and marginalized. I am sure we will never forget these dialogues, as our hearts will be transformed when we are open to listening to others and when we are ready to share our lives with those who surround us.

Gabriela Karaszewski is the director of the Archdiocesan Office of Young Adult and Campus Ministry.