February 15, 2008


Evangelization requires plain speaking and right living

Bishop Robert J. Carlson of Saginaw, Mich., has written a pastoral letter on evangelization that speaks directly to the challenge of sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with others.

“It’s a curious fact about many Catholics,” the bishop says. While we eagerly share most good things (restaurants, books, movies, hopeful stories) with those we love, “there is one good thing that we are reluctant to share: the good news of faith in Jesus Christ.”


“For one reason or another,” Bishop Carlson says, “our culture tells us that it is selfish to keep good things to ourselves, but rude to share the good news of Jesus Christ. And, for one reason or another, we have grown comfortable with this double standard. We have believed what our culture has told us. The time has come to challenge our culture and ourselves.”

What does it mean to challenge our culture and ourselves, to cast off this double standard and be authentic in our witness to the Gospel?

In his pastoral letter, Bishop Carlson says that to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ we must use both words and deeds.

“Through our words, we can offer the world something to believe in,” he says. “But it’s our deeds that give the world a reason to believe—or not believe!—the good news that we proclaim.”

What we say, and how we live, bear witness to what we believe. Words and deeds. Both are necessary. Both communicate plainly what our values are and where we stand on the things that matter most in life.

When was the last time we spoke about our faith in Jesus Christ to a family member, a friend or someone in need? When was the last time we acted in ways that set us apart from the crowd, clearly casting off the empty promises of our modern culture?

“We know that words alone are cheap when it comes to faith,” Bishop Carlson says. “But we are sometimes prone to forget the value—even the necessity—that words sometimes have. How will people get to know the Gospel if we never speak of it? When it comes to the Gospel, there is no doubt that actions speak louder than words and that faith without words makes a poor case for belief.

“Yet, at the same time, actions alone are not enough. In a world that is hungry for meaning, the clarity of words is a necessary part of our proclamation of the Gospel. And in a world saturated with false words, the challenge of the Word of the Lord must be verbalized again and again.”

Plain speaking and right living. Both are essential to evangelization. Both challenge us to step out of our comfort zones in order to be what Christ calls us to be: his disciples—his voice and his hands—evangelists who carry on his teaching, and his ministry, to the men and women of our day.

Bishop Carlson reminds us—in the words of the late Pope John Paul II—that in their heart of hearts the people we live with and work with every day expect us not only to “speak” of Christ, but also to “show” him to them.

“Evangelization means bearing witness to our faith in the Lord every day—sometimes through our deeds and sometimes through our words, sometimes in small matters and sometimes in large ones,” he says.

Every week, without fail, Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein gives witness to his faith in Jesus Christ through his column, “Seek the Face of the Lord.”

“The first mission of evangelization is to enrich and deepen our own Catholic faith so that we have confidence about the tremendous gift that is ours to share,” the archbishop says. “Authentic ­evangelization flows from prayer. And so that’s where we must begin if we want to share our faith with others.”

Let’s pray for the grace to grow in the understanding and practice of our faith so that we can speak with confidence, and act with conviction, as the voice and the hands of Jesus Christ to the men and women of today.

—Daniel Conway

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