During the Season of Lent, the Christian Church has an annual observance on March 17th in commemoration of the great Fifth Century missionary bishop to Ireland, Saint Patrick. He was born at the end of the Fourth Century to a Roman family on the Isle of Great Britain. Patrick was raised in the Christian Faith, but at the age of sixteen he was abducted by Pagan Irish pirates who were raiding communities in and around Great Britain. Patrick was then enslaved by these Irish Pagans. During his captivity, he prayed often and his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ grew stronger. Patrick also learned the Irish Celtic language and customs. In addition, he learned about Druidism, which was the Pagan religion of the Celtic peoples of Western Europe. In fact, his slave master was a Druid high priest. After six years of captivity, he received guidance from an angel of God to flee his cruel master, and he escaped back to Britain.
As a result of this experience, Patrick’s heart was set toward serving God, so he went to France for his seminary education. After seminary, he served in pastoral ministry for approximately seventeen years until he was commissioned as a missionary bishop to Ireland. Patrick arrived in Ireland around 433 AD, and he shared the good news of Jesus Christ with the native people of Ireland for decades to follow. Because of his evangelistic ministry, Patrick is largely responsible for the establishment of Christianity in Ireland. Besides his famous use of the three-leafed shamrock to symbolize the Holy Trinity of God, he is also credited with driving the Druid priesthood (a.k.a. the Irish “serpents”) from Ireland.
It is appropriate during Lent that we commemorate Saint Patrick, because he is a model of faithful and dedicated evangelism within a cultural context that’s largely unfriendly to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
JOHN 4: 34-35
Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me, and to accomplish his work. Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest?’ I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see how the fields are already ripe for harvest.”
Yes, according to Jesus, the fields of evangelism are already ripe for the harvest. However, these fields of evangelism in our society today often do not feel very ripe for harvesting. This is because we live in a time where many people who were raised in the Christian Faith are not living according to their baptismal covenant with God: “to live among God’s faithful people, to regularly hear the Word of God and share in the Lord’s Supper, to proclaim the good news of God in Christ Jesus through word and deed, to serve all people, following the example of Jesus, and to strive for justice and peace in all the earth.” And many of these are neglecting to nurture their children into the faith, hope and love of the Lord Jesus. Furthermore, as it was at the time of Saint Patrick in Ireland, our work of Christian evangelism is increasingly to those who at first find the gospel to be completely foreign to them.
Thanks be to God for the example of Saint Patrick! He was a faithful and devoted believer in Jesus, whose love and total dedication to God gives us inspiration to do the work of evangelism within our daily lives. May we continue to share the good news of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ with others, even though it initially may not be received too well — and even if at times our evangelical outreach in the name of Christ will be completely rejected.
Let us remember Jesus’ words of promise, saying, “See how the fields are already ripe for harvest.” And, when sharing the faith, hope and love of our Lord with others, let us continually pray for direction with the words of the great missionary bishop, Saint Patrick, who prayerfully wrote the following: “May the strength of God pilot me, the power of God uphold me, the wisdom of God guide me.”
Good Lent & Blessed Saint Patrick’s Day!