Throw seed and let God work says US deacon

5 Deacon Harold

Fear of what others will think often stops Catholics from evangelising, but every baptised Catholic is called to spread the Good News.

This was what American Deacon Harold Burke-Sivers told people at his first talk in New Zealand, which took place at Te Kupenga – Catholic Theological College on July 7. The deacon had been invited to do a series of talks in Aotearoa New Zealand by Evangelion, a group that invites passionate and gifted speakers to reinvigorate the Church.

“By our baptism, each and every one of us is called to evangelise. To share the good news of our experience with Jesus Christ. But we’re afraid to do that,” Deacon Burke-Sivers said in his talk.

“What are we afraid of? I may not know enough about my faith. Someone might be mad at me. I might say the wrong thing. Some may defriend me on Facebook, or cancel me, or whatever. So, what? When you’re in love, you can’t wait to share that relationship with others.”

Deacon Burke-Sivers, also known as the “dynamic deacon”, holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Economics and Business Administration from the University of Notre Dame, and a Master of Theological Studies Degree from the University of Dallas. He was a former police officer, who left his job to become a full-time Catholic speaker in 2012.

The deacon said that evangelisation is a “big buzz word” in the Church today, but he said that it is not about “converting” people.

“We can’t convert anybody. We can’t! We’re not that good. It’s the Holy Spirit that moves minds and hearts,” he said.

He explained that the word “evangelisation” comes from the Greek word “evangelion”, meaning good news. It was used by soldiers when they announced that they had won a war, and later, to describe a decree by Caesar.

“We serve the King of kings and the Lord of lords. So, evangelisation is not just good news, it’s the life-changing encounter with Jesus Christ. That’s the news! Because news from our King can and will change your lives,” he said.

The deacon said that Catholics have the responsibility to share our faith, as Jesus left us work to do.

“When he raised the 12-year-old girl from the dead . . . what did he tell the parents to do? ‘Give her something to eat. Feed her.’  God did his part, but he left work for us to do,” he said.

Deacon Burke-Sivers said that, as with the farmer in the parable of the sower,  “our job is to throw the seed and let God do the rest”.

He pointed out that “the seed can’t grow if the seed isn’t there”.

The deacon told the story of how a young woman, working as an administration person in his previous job, saw a rosary hanging from the rear view mirror of his car.

When she asked him about it, he took it as an opportunity to talk about the faith.

Eleven years later, when he announced that he was going full-time with preaching, she reached out and thanked him for showing her the way back to the Church.

“[She said] . . . ‘Your love of the Church was always inspiring and thought-provoking’. Your love, not your theological knowledge, not your knowledge of biblical languages, your love,” he stressed. “That’s what people need to see. That’s what we need to lead with when we’re evangelising. Not criticism, love.”

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Rowena Orejana

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