Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Going In to Go Out

Our Blessed Mother, Central to Pentecost
Evangelization is the buzz word in the Catholic Church these days. It seems everybody is talking about it. Parishes are putting evangelization committees in place. Programs are being planned. People are eager to jump in and get going. Before we get too caught up, however, I would like to ponder a bit on just what we truly need to do to prepare to carry out the mission of evangelization.

Evangelization is not a new concept. In fact, the Holy Spirit's descent upon those gathered in the Upper Room in Acts 1 and 2 give an account of the first evangelization effort of the new church. Filled with the Holy Spirit, the joy and zeal of those who received cannot be contained. The disciples burst out of the Room and go into the streets, proclaiming the Good News in the languages of the people--speaking in tongues not known to the disciples prior to their encounter with the Spirit. One could say it was the first manifestation of charisms--speaking in tongues.

When we contemplate the accounts of this first evangelization effort, I would like to reflect on a point. This being that you have to go in before you go out. What do I mean by that?

Those gathered in the Upper Room were gathered around Our Blessed Mother, who had already encountered the Holy Spirit. In fact, she was overshadowed by and filled with the Spirit at the Annunciation. The result of this encounter was the Word became Flesh--the birth of Jesus. Mary was literally the anchor of the first evangelization effort of the new church.

I can only imaging the prayers being offered by those gathered in that room as they awaited the Advocate promised by Jesus, surrounded the one who was already Full of Grace and the Spirit. They were going in; deep within themselves in prayer. They were coming to know who they were in this great mission that was to be theirs', handed down from Christ.

We, too, must go inward before we can go out.

Prayer must be the cornerstone for evangelization. Deep prayer. Contemplative prayer. Prayer that places us in the presence of the Jesus Himself. We need to quiet ourselves before the Almighty and listen to what it is that He needs to tell us. We must open ourselves to His Will and ask Him to clearly show us what He wants of us. We must ask that the Holy Spirit enkindle in our hearts a flame of love for the Lord. We must discern our charisms, gifts given to us by the Spirit for the great mission for which God has created us. We also must discern the mission. We cannot go off on our own--all must be for God's glory and purpose.

This type of prayer takes time. It takes discernment. It takes knowing ourselves and knowing, in a deep way, our Savior. Of falling madly in love with the One who created and loves us.

Only then will we be able to go out. When our interior life is centered on Jesus, only then will we be able to go out and proclaim the Good News of the Gospel.

It is only when we have felt the embrace of Jesus; the deep peace of unconditional love, mercy, and forgiveness, that we can go out. It is only then that we will see with the eyes of Jesus. It is only then that we will understand the powerful love we are to bring to the world through our words and most importantly, our actions.

It is then we become the image of Jesus incarnate in the world today. When we do this, we will be able to evangelize with a boldness and zeal that will not be contained. We will live lives filled with joy. Then we will be the light that draws people to Jesus!

Remember, before we go out, we must go deep within ourselves to know the movement of the Holy Spirit and meet Jesus, who lives deep within our heart.

Before we can go out, we must go in!