In this Year of Faith it seems that we, as Catholics, will be put to the test. Whether it is in the formation of our conscience as we select our next President or as we work to transform the culture of death to one of life, we will face challenges. In addition to growing inwardly, however, the Year of Faith also challenges us to share the faith with others.
As we look to how to evangelize, I think first we have to reflect on a few questions ourselves. We cannot give what we do not have. Therefore, we must truly know the depth of our own conviction and what it will take, both personally and communally, to be witnesses of Christ in a hostile world. Here are a few questions to reflect upon:
- Who is Jesus to me?
- What does it mean to have faith in Jesus Christ?
- How has God gifted me to live that faith boldly, sharing Christ with others?
- What does it mean to live as Catholics in a culture that challenges our faith?
- Am I willing to suffer the slings and arrows of others (including those I love and those inside the Church that I love) to stand for Christ and His Church?
- How do I work to unite my will and intellect, the heart and the head, when deepening my relationship with Christ and others?
- How am I called to lead others into a deeper faith?
- How can I work to bring about unity within my Church and world?
- How can I lead people into a deeper understanding of Truth, when our society is one of relativism?
These are reasonable questions we have to ponder as we, individually and as a Church, discern how to go about bringing the Good News of the Gospel to a world living in darkness, violence, chaos, and confusion.
Recent surveys noting people are more spiritual than religious are indicators there is a great desire for people to know God—even if they cannot name Him as of yet in their search. This longing comes deep from within—not a surface desire or even, I daresay, one that begins as an idea. It is a pining for love and acceptance rooted deep within our soul.
Helping people identify that desire to love and be loved as the voice of God is the first step in moving toward a deep and meaningful relationship with Jesus Christ. In turn, it is Jesus who will ultimately lead us to the relationship of unconditional love, mercy, and forgiveness with God and those around us, through the working of the Holy Spirit.
Love is a universal language. It does not rely on academic degrees, finances, outward physical beauty, or success to make an impact. Sometimes we try to over think things. This makes efforts to evangelize all the more difficult. Jesus Christ did not come to proclaim a program, but a path to salvation through a way of life. This is strengthened within the life of the community of faith, through relationships with God and each other.
We cannot strike out on our own. If we do we are no better than the people of Babel. We cannot decide individually what ‘Jesus’ we are going to follow. Scripture tells us, “If a house is divided against itself, it cannot stand” (Mark 3:25).
Anyone who has felt the compassionate touch of Christ in their life knows what I am talking about. When you have been held in the bosom of His embrace, felt His warm breath flow over you, and have gazed into the eyes of His Compassion and Truth, there is no other person for which you would lay down your life. It is that force which drives you onward to share His Good News, to take on the criticisms of those you love and those you do not know, to leave the comfort of home to enter into the hostile mission fields.
Evangelization is sharing the deep love of Christ—but before we can do that, we ourselves must have experienced Him in the most intimate way. How can we do this? We do it through prayer—deep prayer—of adoration, a begging of the Holy Spirit to set our hearts aflame. We also do this as part of a larger community of faith fed on the Sacraments and sent forth. When we know Jesus most intimately and are filled with His Passion, then and only then we will be able to do great things for the Lord. Anything else is in life, in comparison, is “just straw”, to quote St. Thomas Aquinas!