By Nick Sciarappa
Just last year I went to visit a childhood friend who lives in New York City. We hadn’t seen each other in months, which was a shame, because we had a very close friendship. We were the type of friends who could talk about anything – no matter how deep or difficult the topic was. The only topic we never spoke about was religion. As long as we didn’t talk about that, our friendship was smooth and comfortable.
When we saw each other, we immediately picked up right where our friendship left off. We laughed for hours as we walked among the bright lights and sea of people in Manhattan.
Eventually, the conversation became more focused.
We began to talk about our struggles in life, and how we felt about difficult challenges we were facing. It was a great opportunity to share advice and affirmation between two friends. I did my best to keep things secular.
After my turn to offer some friendly advice passed, my friend stopped walking, looked right into my eyes, and asked a simple question.
“Nick, that’s the best advice I’ve ever heard. Where did you come up with that?” She said.
I knew my friend was an agnostic, so I shrugged the question off with false humility saying, “Oh it’s nothing. I’m just being me.”
But my friend persisted, demanding to know what book I read that gave me the perspective on life that I had. Understanding that she really wanted to know more, I thought it was time that I tell her the truth about where I get my perspective of life’s greatest questions.
“Everything I told you has been inspired by Jesus, my God, as written in the Gospels” I told her.
She paused, looking at me puzzled and uncomfortable. Then she responded saying, “Oh, I didn’t need to know that.”
I was stunned as she continued to explain to me how she didn’t need to believe in Jesus to take some advice from Him. And I guess that is true, but why didn’t she have any interest in knowing more about the guy? I was puzzled, not understanding how she could admire me, an average person, so much for the good advice, but not Jesus, the actual source of the words I shared that evening. She ran away from the subject as quickly as possible, changing the topic almost immediately.
While walking with my friend, I thought I had the opportunity to live out today’s gospel message. In the gospel, Jesus says that the Father brings people to his Son. My friend identified so deeply with the truths of the Father, but when I tried to link them to Jesus, she froze.
Bringing people to Jesus is hard.
I know many people who are very comfortable believing that there is some sort of vague god, spirit, or energy that is beyond any human’s comprehension. But when it comes to helping someone transition from a vague god to a personal God it is so difficult. Why?
I look to my own experience for an answer, and I think the answer is this: If I believe Jesus is who He says He is, a personal God rather than a vague god, then I have to constantly change my life in what I do, how I act, and who I am.
The reality of a personal God who leads by clear example and action requires action to be taken by His followers.
If that’s difficult for me, which it is, I can only imagine how frightening it would be for my friend.
I know my journey to walk with my friend from a vague unknown God to a personal one must continue. But next time the topic comes up, I know I can’t get frustrated or show signs of judgement. Rather, I have to act as Jesus would: Alleviate her fear of who Jesus is through my actions and word, and relationship.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Nick graduated from John Carroll University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communications, and a Catholic Studies Minor in May 2014. After a short residency reporting for the newspaper, National Catholic Reporter in Kansas City he stepped away from journalism into full time ministry. He works for the Diocese of Pittsburgh as their Digital Media Strategist, at St. John Neumann as a Youth Minister, and speaks at various ministry events in Pittsburgh, PA. He enjoys playing the ukulele and singing.