Summary: Person to person evangelizing can take many forms, but it is the responsibility of all.
Thursday of 12th week in course 2015
Joy of the Gospel
I have a motto in my lab. It’s a kind of universal directive that the students, I hope, learn by heart: Do what I say, and nobody gets hurt. If you have a good memory for movies, you’ll see that the motto is a loose paraphrase from the Godfather. But it’s something that in a chemistry lab can keep you alive and well. Jesus says something like that today. It is not enough to hear the word of God and say, “O Lord, I hear you.” We also have to obey Christ’s law of love. If we do not, then nothing we do will have any endurance. All our structures will wash away like the homes that were destroyed in the great flood. It’s not that God is some kind of tyrant. The reason we must obey God is that He created us, redeemed us, and made us holy. If we disobey his laws, it’s like trying to go into a computer operating system and change a few instructions and think it’s going to work better. Not even the Supreme Court of the U.S. can change human nature, and make, for instance, human beings into disposable biological tissue, or sexual abuse into the basis for marriage.
The Holy Father has been writing about the responsibility of every Catholic to evangelize. Now he gets down to the nitty-gritty work: ‘Today, as the Church seeks to experience a profound missionary renewal, there is a kind of preaching which falls to each of us as a daily responsibility. It has to do with bringing the Gospel to the people we meet, whether they be our neighbours or complete strangers. This is the informal preaching which takes place in the middle of a conversation, something along the lines of what a missionary does when visiting a home. Being a disciple means being constantly ready to bring the love of Jesus to others, and this can happen unexpectedly and in any place: on the street, in a city square, during work, on a journey.’
Of course, this means we have to stay awake, and aware, and be cognizant of the situation of those we encounter each day.
‘In this preaching, which is always respectful and gentle, the first step is personal dialogue, when the other person speaks and shares his or her joys, hopes and concerns for loved ones, or so many other heartfelt needs. Only afterwards is it possible to bring up God’s word, perhaps by reading a Bible verse or relating a story, but always keeping in mind the fundamental message: the personal love of God who became man, who gave himself up for us, who is living and who offers us his salvation and his friendship. This message has to be shared humbly as a testimony on the part of one who is always willing to learn, in the awareness that the message is so rich and so deep that it always exceeds our grasp. At times the message can be presented directly, at times by way of a personal witness or gesture, or in a way which the Holy Spirit may suggest in that particular situation. If it seems prudent and if the circumstances are right, this fraternal and missionary encounter could end with a brief prayer related to the concerns which the person may have expressed. In this way they will have an experience of being listened to and understood; they will know that their particular situation has been placed before God, and that God’s word really speaks to their lives.
‘We should not think, however, that the Gospel message must always be communicated by fixed formulations learned by heart or by specific words which express an absolutely invariable content. This communication takes place in so many different ways that it would be impossible to describe or catalogue them all, and God’s people, with all their many gestures and signs, are its collective subject. If the Gospel is embedded in a culture, the message is no longer transmitted solely from person to person. In countries where Christianity is a minority, then, along with encouraging each of the baptized to proclaim the Gospel, particular Churches should actively promote at least preliminary forms of inculturation. The ultimate aim should be that the Gospel, as preached in categories proper to each culture, will create a new synthesis with that particular culture. This is always a slow process and at we can be overly fearful. But if we allow doubts and fears to dampen our courage, instead of being creative we will remain comfortable and make no progress whatsoever. In this case we will not take an active part in historical processes, but become mere onlookers as the Church gradually stagnates.’
Today, Christianity as measured by polls is not a minority in this country, but those who feel a responsibility to actively evangelize are a minority. What’s the downside for eternity of being an evangelizer? None. There is only upside for us and for those we meet.