The western world has a large number of Christians who do not openly share their faith with others. This act is perceived by many as proselytizing, making them unwilling to evangelize.
Yet the mission of the Church is to proclaim the Gospel. Christ himself was sent by the Father “to evangelize the poor… to heal the brokenhearted” (Lk 4:18), and “to seek and to save the lost” (Lk 19:10). He also sent his disciples to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Mat 28:19).
The proclamation of faith reveals to humanity the ultimate purpose and meaning of life and the transcendent end of existence. And during the earliest days of Christianity, the spreading of the faith clearly appears as the action of all Christians.
As Christians today, we are faced with a dilemma: we usually agree we must evangelize, but we do not have a clear understanding of what evangelizing means or how to do it.
1. Evangelizing: What does it mean?
Let us begin by stating that the essence of Christianity is Christ – not a doctrine, but a person. Evangelizing involves helping others know Christ and develop a relationship with Him, a loving bond with the One who wants to be accepted for who he is: Savior and Lord.
To evangelize, explains Robert Schreiter, is to live with others, to dialogue, and in this life together to give what we are and what we have… and even the Word of God.
Evangelizing means bringing the Good News to all environments, offering it by different means and by its effect, transforming humanity from within, making it new, from the inside out.
Evangelizing is proclaiming the saving News to everyone, generating new creations in Christ through baptism and teaching them how to live as children of God . Evangelization is the reason why the Church exists. When she is aware of what the Lord wants her to be, there arises in her a singular fullness and a need for expansion, with a clear awareness of a mission that goes beyond her and of the Good news to be spread (Cf. Paul VI, Ecclesiam Suam, # 66)
In fact, proclaiming the Gospel is more than the proclamation of good news; it is a power of God (Rom 1:16) that transforms and leads humanity to eternal life. God wants “all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:4). He wants men and women to enjoy his love knowing that their ultimate good is in him. He did not give his Son to make a spectacle, it was to save humanity. In him is a single will of mercy for all his children, children he calls out of love.
Proclaiming the Word, announcing it or sharing it with others, is to sow seeds of hope, peace, and love that will grow in the hearts of those who listen and produce fruits of justice for humanity. By evangelizing the world, we fight despair, hate, and sicknesses. By continuing the mission of Christ we become a blessing to those around us and we also create a better world.
Finally, evangelizing means bringing back to the Church the lost and wounded sheep, for there is not a single wound that cannot be healed by the Church, which possesses the testimony of the Scriptures, the Old and New Testaments. It is the Church that gives bith to faith. Through the Church, we can unite ourselves to Christ with the help of the sacraments that God has placed at our disposal, to reconcile us with Him and communicate Life to us.
2. In what spirit should we evangelize?
Proclamation, testimony, calls to conversion, teachings, love of neighbour are all ways and means for the transmission of the Gospel. But let us remember that if God calls us to proclaim his Word, he is not a God who seeks to impose himself; rather, he pursues all humanity with his love. He does not seek to indoctrinate, he is not a theologian who comes to save. Like him, we should not so much seek to evangelize through knowledge as by putting that knowledge into practice that is, by loving… quite simply…
Truth does not impose itself, but is proposed by faith; it does not impose itself by numbers, for there were only two at the foot of the cross; it does not impose itself by greatness, but by service; it does not impose itself by knowledge, but by respect for those of lesser faith. Charity is much stronger than knowledge.
Yes, the Lord needs us, but his banner is love. It is by love that the world is sanctified, it is by love and respect that men and women are freed from vain habits, and by a sincere interest in people that the Spirit makes himself known to them.
If we want to show that we know God then let us show that we love our brothers and sisters as ourselves. Let us hasten to be reconciled with others. Let us serve the presence of Christ in others. It is not our place to judge: God will hand over justice to his Son at the time of judgment, so we have no business judging.
Rather, like Christ, we are to have mercy on the multitudes and seek peace in all things. We see needs…let’s go forth and sow; let’s sow on the stone, let’s sow, let’s sow by the wayside, let’s sow, let’s sow, there is a little patch of ground waiting to receive the Word. The seed will grow and the Kingdom will be manifested; but it is there! Let us walk in faith… the Kingdom is here.
Evangelization is not a human endeavour, but a work of God. We are only servants of this work which we can only carry out united with the Holy Spirit (Jn 15:5). In seeking to share the Word, we should therefore resort to prayer in all circumstances to know where the action of His grace is. God desires us to work with Him, but above all, He desires us to work with Him, with His Spirit: the Spirit and the Word will bear witness as He has promised us. By praying with faith, God can answer us immediately, let’s listen to what our heart says…
Let’s go forth, let’s move forward, let’s make Jesus be born in hearts by the virtue of the Holy Spirit; seeds will die, but trees will grow. At the imminence of the irruption of the Kingdom of God in the life of a person, let us ask for the impossible, let us ask for Life. The Kingdom is in our midst; it is only waiting for us to have a little faith in order to manifest itself further.
We can see that evangelization has nothing to do with proselytism. It is not a question of recruiting new followers. It is not about imposing our ideas or indoctrinating anyone. Rather, it is about making God’s love known through all of our lives with zeal and charity. Yes, the Spirit moves us to act, he moves us to spread his peace, he moves us to spread the Word.
God asks us to love him and to love one another. And this love leads us to share also what we have most precious, that is our faith and our relationship with Christ. Far be it from us to fear the judgment of men and to adopt a conformist behaviour for fear of shocking, of displeasing, of what people will say.
To be messengers of the Word, we must ensure our own foundations by being united to Christ in every way, with the help of all the sacraments available to us, to reconcile us with Him and communicate Life to us. We must no longer be deaf to the despair we see around us and dare to approach the suffering.
And the more we are deprived in front of the spiritual mission which is that of every baptized person; mission which is to spread life and peace in the name of Christ Jesus; well all these distresses, these anguishes, all these wounds that we will notice and that we will espouse as you approach the one who suffers, our brother, the one who in the moment of God, which is the present moment…. the more we are deprived, the more God will act with power. This is the law of death of resurrection.
So let us not be afraid anymore. In an attitude of service, let us approach those who suffer, let us take the last place and let our only ammunition be the inheritance that we hope to receive. Let our only ammunition be the imperative of that mission which by faith we can accomplish, mission to spread life wherever we see death. However, to see death we must come closer, and to come closer we must believe.
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