“Here I am…send me.” Isaiah 6:8b
“Evangelizing is in fact the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity. She exists in order to evangelize, that is to say, in order to preach and teach, to be the channel of the gift of grace, to reconcile sinners with God, and to perpetuate Christ’s sacrifice in the Mass, which is the memorial of His death and glorious resurrection…
The Church is an evangelizer, but she begins by being evangelized herself. She is the community of believers, the community of hope lived and communicated, the community of brotherly love; and she needs to listen unceasingly to what she must believe, to her reasons for hoping, to the new commandment of love. She is the People of God immersed in the world, and often tempted by idols, and she always needs to hear the proclamation of the “mighty works of God” which converted her to the Lord; she always needs to be called together afresh by Him and reunited.” Pope Paul VI, Apostolic Exhortation on Evangelization, # 14 & 15
Evangelization in the Catholic sense is not proselytizing; getting others to join our church. It is not a program that can be followed to ensure a certain level of success. Evangelization is a call, a way of life, a way of being. It is sharing the good news of God’s love through Jesus Christ by our words, our actions, our very selves. It is making use of all our gifts and talents to love others to Christ.
While evangelization is the duty of every baptized Catholic, the Holy Spirit is the One Who brings about the conversion of heart necessary for a transformed life. This presents another difficulty for many Catholics: we have no control over the outcome of our life’s vocation! The Holy Spirit “blows where he will”. We can only do our part in sharing and living the Gospel and praying for the Holy Spirit to open hearts.
What might evangelization look like in the life of today’s Catholic? We are first of all called to our own continuing conversion. Our participation in the Mass and the sacraments, our time spent in personal prayer and study of God’s word, and our reaching out to all those in need, are definitely on the short list of ways to be open to the Holy Spirit and His plan to transform us.
The Eucharist, the “source and summit” of our lives, is the primary means of evangelization for Catholics. Christ becomes truly present in Word and Sacrament when we gather. What better time or place to introduce others to, and rekindle in ourselves, the immense love of God poured out to us through His Son than when time itself is transformed and we stand within the Paschal Mystery? The rituals and music, the gentle hospitality of the assembly gathered, the Word proclaimed and the consecrated bread and wine, all work together to bring hope to our world.
Serving the parish community is another way to participate in our call to evangelization. Sharing our gifts through the many and varied ministries builds up the Church and helps us grow spiritually. Whether we minister at our liturgies, participate in missions and retreats, care for the poor, reach out to the sick and dying, serve on the council, catechize our children, join the RCIA team, become a member of a Bible study or prayer group, help with the finances, or simply bring joy and enthusiasm to social gatherings, we are empowered by the Holy Spirit to be bearers of Christ’s light to all.
As Catholics, we might agree it is important to live our lives in a way that draws others to God, but we tend to struggle with the idea of actually telling another person about our faith and God’s love. Whether we are a stay-at-home mom, an engineer, a farmer, a professor, a student, a social worker, a doctor, or unemployed, we share equal responsibility to draw others into the circle of God’s love by living and proclaiming the Good News. We are each called to live out, and speak out about our faith, firmly grounded in a God of mercy and grace through Jesus.
“Above all the Gospel must be proclaimed by witness… Nevertheless this always remains insufficient because even the finest witness will prove ineffective in the long run if it is not explained, justified… and made explicitly a clear and unequivocal proclamation of the Lord Jesus. The Good News proclaimed by the witness of life sooner or later has to be proclaimed by the word of life. There is no true evangelization if the name, the teaching, the life, the promises, the kingdom and the mystery of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God, are not proclaimed.” Pope Paul VI Apostolic Exhortation on Evangelization, # 21& 22
Being a follower of Christ has always involved risk and a leap out of the mainstream. The Holy Spirit empowers us, or in fact, compels us, to live an exciting and challenging life of evangelization. We enjoy the privilege of being used by God to impact the lives of others and be abundantly blessed in the process. As Catholics, let us embrace our true identity as disciples of Jesus Christ, and refuse to be satisfied with mediocre faith.
“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. But how shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe unless they have heard of him? And how can they hear unless there is someone to preach? And how can men preach unless they are sent?” Romans 10:13-15
Ministry of Adult Formation/ Evangelization
St. Thomas Aquinas Parish/ Newman Center