By Lilla Ross

Catholics can’t make disciples until they are disciples, says Father Larry Richards.

“Many Catholics are just going through the motions, going to Mass so that they won’t go to hell,” says the host of EWTN’s radio program The Reason for Our Hope. “But we are called by Jesus and the church to ‘go and make disciples.’ It’s an integral part of who we are.”

Father Larry Richards

Being a disciple isn’t about following the rules, it’s about following Jesus, Father Richards said. “You need an intimate relationship with Jesus if being a disciple is going to make sense,” he added.

People forget that before God gave his people the 10 Commandments, he set them free. “We tend to give people the commandments first,” Father Richards said. “They need to experience salvation first, and then they’ll want to do all the things the church asks them to do.”

Establishing a relationship with Jesus is like establishing a relationship with anyone, spending time with them every day talking and listening, he said. Listening is an important part of it. “It can’t just be give me, give me, give me,” he said. “It has to include, ‘I want to do what you want me to do. I exist to do your will.’”

Making disciples is a three-step process, he said.

First, pray for them.

Make a prayer list and pray every day for family, co-workers, neighbors, and friends. Father Richards says he hears people say all the time that they don’t know how to convert anyone.

“You’re right; you can’t,” he said. “The Holy Spirit does that. So, it’s important to pray in the power of the Holy Spirit.”

Father Richards says he likes Cardinal Mercier’s prayer:

O Holy Spirit, beloved of my soul, I adore You. Enlighten me, guide me, strengthen me, console me. Tell me what I should do; give me Your orders. I promise to submit myself to all that You desire of me and to accept all that You permit to happen to me. Let me only know Your Will.

“Prayer is a spiritual magnifying glass,” Father Richards said. “A magnifying glass focuses the rays of the sun on something and sets it on fire. Prayer focuses the grace of God on a person or event and sets it on fire with God’s love.”

Second, love them.

“We bring people to Jesus so they can know peace and eternal life,” Father Richards said. “We love them where they are, but we don’t leave them there.”

But that doesn’t mean beating them over the head with what they should believe. “Don’t jump to the truth. Keep the truth to yourself and love them first. When they feel loved, they’ll be able to hear the truth.”

Third, witness to them.

“This is so different than preaching,” Father Richards said. “You say, ‘This is what Jesus has done for me and what he can do for you. He set me free. I know him in the Eucharist. I meet him in confession. It’s the experiential relationship of the Good News. You do it as the spirit leads.”

Father Richards says it’s important to do the steps in order.

“It’s a simple way everyone can evangelize,” he said. “Do it according to your personality. Don’t try to force it on anyone. That’s just an ego thing. Jesus never forced anyone to come to him.

“Invite them to adoration. It is the real presence. It’s where we find healing, where we are most loved, where we get our power to go out and do the things Jesus wants us to do,” Father Richards said. “The Eucharist is more powerful than a nuclear bomb. When we get that, boy, things start happening.”

Father Richards will be one of the speakers at the Eucharistic Congress, March 16-17, at the Prime Osborn Convention Center in Jacksonville. Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington is the keynote speaker. The theme is “Live in My Love.” To learn more, visit www.FloridaEucharist.org.