Tag Archives: evangelization

Sharing

Hands Holding Share

Dear Folks,
Jesus calls some fishermen and tells them “From now on you will be catching
men.” Notice that He did not start with a promise of saving from sin, talk of healing, but of being fishers for souls. The Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Church teaches that the “obligation of spreading the faith is imposed on every disciple of Christ, according to his ability (LG #17).” The question “are we dedicated to following Jesus?” cannot be answered without asking “are we dedicated to spreading the Gospel to all people (Matthew 28: 18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:46-38)?” Our Church has been going through some serious challenges lately. What if God is allowing us to be tested, that we may show if we take Him seriously? What if part of the answer is how we respond to the call to share our faith with the world? The future of our faith communities could very well depend on how we respond to God’s call now.
The problem, of course, is that we were not taught how to do it, and it seems that most
Catholics have not been taught that they should. Even in the seminary, they did not teach us how to share the Gospel with people who did not already accept it.
We shall need to work on this for some time, but I would share some ideas to stimulate
thought and conversation.
United State Conference of Catholic Bishops put out a document “Go and Make
Disciples.” They described three tasks to spreading the Gospel:

  1. Grow in enthusiasm for the Gospel ourselves until it spills out of us. This is essentially a call to continue to be evangelized. As long as our love is imperfect and we do not see things the same way God does, we are incompletely evangelized. That task will not be finished until we are in heaven (1 Corinthians 13:9-12).
  2. Invite everyone, everywhere to share the fullness of the Catholic faith. This suggests if they are outside, invite them inside. If they are inside, invite them further inside.
    Everyone can come closer (see #1). This is evangelizing other people. Note the word
    “invite.” How do we invite people to something wonderful?
  3. Transform the world according to the love of God. Our society should be structured in a way that serves the life, the dignity, the flourishing of all people. This is essentially evangelizing society itself. This should keep us busy for a while.
    I would suggest the best book on evangelization is Acts of the Apostles. It shows the early Church growing like a grease fire despite determined opposition. It seems to me it describes the early Church doing four things: Telling the Gospel story, working together as community, worshipping God, and helping people in need. I say that if we get good enough at those four things, no one on earth can stop us.
    If you want a very simple way to start, I suggest some very basic actions: Tell someone one good thing about your faith community, learn something new about the faith and share it, Introduce yourself to someone you don’t know at church, create a holy moment (a moment in which our actions show the love of Jesus). Anyone can do this. Once we start, who knows where it will lead?
    The second reading for today is 1 Corinthians 15:1-11. St. Paul gives the most basic form of the Christian message, that Jesus died for our sins, rose from the dead and now offers us salvation. This is called the “kerygma,” and everything else follows from it. Part of telling the Gospel story is presenting the kerygma and doing it in a way that is compelling and persuasive. Simply repeating formulas that people have already heard is not going to make much of an impression, or at least not a good one. One might ask how we can talk about salvation to people who don’t think they need saving, and how can we talk about salvation from sin to people who don’t think sin is an issue? That, folks, is the subject of next week’s
    column.
    Blessings,
    Fr. Jim

Parable of Two Armies

flint ak47

Imagine if you will two armies meeting in battle.  One is armed with flintlock rifles and swords and they are highly skilled with them.  They have had extensive training and practice.  The other army is armed with M-16’s, AK-47’s and rocket propelled grenade launchers, but haven’t a clue how to use them. They don’t know how to load or cock them, never mind how to clean them.  Which army is going to win?  I suggest the Catholic faith and its principles are not doing better in the marketplace of ideas is similar: we have the better message, but the world is marketing theirs better. Many people have a very negative understanding of Catholicism, and of Christianity in general, because those who say only the negative, and often distort the reality, are so much more effective that we have been getting the word out.

When the Church began, a small handful of people with no resources but the Gospel story and the grace of God were able to change the world forever.  The surrounding culture was extremely hostile; they thought following someone who had been crucified was the dumbest thing they had ever heard, and they held to highly decadent values.  Nonetheless, the mightiest empire that the world had ever seen was helpless to stop the Church from growing.  We have all the resources that the early Church had and more.

When most Catholics are taught the faith, we not been taught to be evangelists.  We have been prepared to be customers in the Church.  Even in the seminary, we were not really taught how to spread the faith to others, but rather how to deal with people who already believed. Much of the way we are taught to talk about the faith only makes sense to those who already accept its basic premises.  Furthermore, many, many Catholics stop learning about the faith after twelfth, eighth or even second grade, so they never learn the faith on an adult level.  But, they keep learning in other areas, so that faith falls behind.

We know that Jesus, the Son of God, became man and died on the cross to save us from our sins.  Okay, but what does it mean that He is the “Son of God”?  What does dying on a cross have to do with saving us from our sins?  Why do we need saving? What does it mean to save us? What is “sin” anyway and why does it matter?  When if we can’t explain that in language that they can understand, it is not going to make sense to them.  We are so used to our religious language, we have not learned to talk about this stuff without it.

Many people were raised Catholic and have left because they think it doesn’t make a lot of sense, or doesn’t make a lot of difference.  I’ve talked to a lot of them, and if I understood Catholicism the way they did, I wouldn’t be Catholic either. I wouldn’t be Christian at all.  They can have some strange ideas, and say terrible things about the faith (like, “so you believe that God put us here to guess the right religion, and if we guess wrong he will burn us in fire forever and ever, but he loves us.”). Whatever they were taught growing up, this is what they absorbed. It is futile to get mad at them for saying such things.  We need to focus our energy on getting the faith out more effectively.

We have work to do.  We need to understand our faith story better, and we need to learn to express it in ways that the world can find compelling.  If what we claim to believe is true, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the most powerful transformative force in the universe.  We just need the will and the skill to do it, and the world can be transformed.  Our weapons are the Word of Truth and loving action. God wants us to succeed.