As we journey towards the end of the Easter with the Solemnities of Ascension and Pentecost just over the horizon the scriptures in different ways speak to the disciples with commanding words “Go teach all nations”, “ you are witnesses to these things”, “may the Spirit free us to proclaim the peace, joy and forgiveness of God to everyone.”
These sayings of Jesus set me thinking about the word ‘EVANGELIZATION’. It’s not a new word, it’s not a word we heard so often until recent decades. We Catholics associated this word with small, fundamentalist type churches.
However, we Catholics were Evangelized but in a different way. Mostly we received the faith through our families, our catholic schools and clubs. Catholic life was all encompassioning life, there were few other influences that affected us.
We all know from the experience of our families and friends that in the main this does not happen today. The huge changes in our society have ruptured this process; you could say it’s the end of an era. The Church exists to Evangelize, no evangelization no Church.
We need to take to heart the words of Jesus; “Go teach all nations” and learn to be an evangelizing Church. Evangelization begins with a desire to share the love of God, it’s not some kind of Spiritual sledgehammer, it’s not about proselytism or targeting people who are committed to other traditions.
“God blessing” on the phone or “God bless you” on our letters and emails are not about evangelization. The often spoken “dear God” or “please God”, or “Oh God”, these are really nothing more than social interactions, not the stuff of evangelization. Evangelization is not about being fuzzy or superficial.
Pope John Paul II spoke about a “new evangelization”, one that seeks to engage Catholics who have drifted away or whose faith has become hollow or lifeless. That’s fertile ground for evangelization. We can also evangelize those who are not part of any faith community or those who are looking for more in their lives.
Evangelization might mean being with someone on the peripheries of the community, or being with someone in their suffering.
Evangelization is a slow process; it is patience, a sense of humour, reflective prayer and a deep trust in God.
We’ve all met evangelizers of this ilk; May be God is calling us to be an evangelizer for someone.
The best evangelizers are always those who know how to waste time with others.
May Easter keep Eastering in you.
Monsignor Paul Farmer