May 9, 2014

Evangelization Supplement

Let's hit the road!

By Peg McEvoy

Peg McEvoyJesus has sent us into the world to spread the Good News! Our parishes provide the key place for encountering Jesus, but we can’t just expect people to come to us. We need to take the Good News to them.

“Them” includes those not affiliated with any faith, those who have faded away from the Catholic faith, and even those who attend Sunday Mass but have not formed a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Evangelizers come in all shapes, sizes and ages. The common denominator is an encounter with Christ.

Read what Pope Francis says about this in his recent apostolic exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium” (“The Joy of the Gospel”):

“All of us are called to offer others an explicit witness to the saving love of the Lord, who despite our imperfections offers us his closeness, his word and his strength, and gives meaning to our lives. In your heart, you know that it is not the same to live without him; what you have come to realize, what has helped you to live and given you hope, is what you also need to communicate to others” (#121).

Based on Pope Francis’ thoughts, consider these questions:

  • How does Jesus give meaning to your life?
  • How has your faith in Jesus given you hope?
  • How do prayer and the sacraments help you?

His encouragement doesn’t stop there, though. He encourages us to get past the typical excuse of not “having it all together” or not being “perfect”:

“Our falling short of perfection should be no excuse; on the contrary, mission is a constant stimulus not to remain mired in mediocrity but to continue growing. The witness of faith that each Christian is called to offer leads us to say with St. Paul: ‘Not that I have already obtained this, or am already perfect; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own’ ” (Phil 3:12-13; EG, #121).

This hits home with me and many other good people I know. Sometimes our lack of confidence becomes an obstacle to our mission. We need to understand ourselves as disciples with a mission, that no matter how “good at” faith we are, there is always more to learn, do, say and pray for. We need to continually grow in faith and closeness with our Lord. No one “has it all together” when it comes to being a disciple of Jesus Christ.

With no excuses, we must gather up our courage and move forward on the path that God sets before us. We don’t have to look far to find people who need hope and meaning in their lives. They walk on our streets and maybe even attend Mass in our churches. They live in our neighborhoods and maybe in our own family. It does not take a “program” to bring Christ to the world, but working with others—a parish team—can help.

Our mission is to help people know God’s love. There are concrete actions that uncover that love in even the most difficult situations. Pope Francis points out a few of these: “We have to regard ourselves as sealed, even branded, by this mission of bringing light, blessing, enlivening, raising up, healing and freeing” (EG, #273).

Where am I to bring light? Who does he want me to bless, enliven, raise up, heal and free? What are the next steps? How do I start?

  • Be intentional. Remember you are sent by Jesus on this mission.
  • Be prepared. You never know when the Holy Spirit will surprise you with an opportunity!
  • Pray. “When evangelizers rise from prayer, their hearts are more open; freed of self-absorption, they are desirous of doing good and sharing their lives with others” (EG, #282).
  • Join with others to encourage a relationship with Christ among those in your parish and beyond the walls of your parish. A team focused on sharing Jesus’ message will keep you focused and challenged.

Know that we are God’s chosen ones—disciples of Jesus Christ. This does not make us an exclusive club. Instead, it calls us to dig deeper into our encounter with Jesus and others, offering to love as Jesus loves.

You and your parish will be blessed, enlivened and a place of Christ’s light when you act together with the common mission of spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Peg McEvoy is the associate director for evangelization and family catechesis of the the archdiocesan Office of Catholic Education. For questions and/or help starting a parish evangelization team, contact Peg at pmcevoy@archindy.org.

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