March 17, 2017

Worship and Evangelization Outreach / Mary Schaffner

Allowing ourselves to be evangelized

So often, we think of evangelization as what we do to spread the Good News to others, through our actions, the charity we show in our daily encounters and the way we live our lives, or in what we have to say about our Christian faith and experience.

But how might we reflect and pay attention first to “being” evangelized ourselves?

“We love because he first loved us” (1 Jn 4:19), we hear in the First Letter of John, which reminds us that anything we do to spread the goodness of God is only in response to the love we have been shown.

And how is that love shown—where do we see God’s presence, God’s love, God’s image in those around us and in our everyday life experiences? Are we vulnerable in letting down our guard to be open to what another person who is different than we are might have to teach us about the goodness and love of God?

In Pope Francis’ encyclical, “The Joy of the Gospel,” we find several occasions where we are challenged to “be” evangelized ourselves as a way of preparing ourselves to do the work of evangelization.

We hear from the Holy Father:

“Before all else, the Gospel invites us to respond to the God of love who saves us, to see God in others and to go forth from ourselves to seek the good of others” (#39).

“Everyone needs to be touched by the comfort and attraction of God’s saving love, which is mysteriously at work in each person, beyond their faults and failings” (#44)

“We need to learn how to encounter others … as companions along the way, without interior resistance, learning to find Jesus in the faces of others in their pleas” (#91).

“The way to relate to others … is a mystical fraternity, a contemplative fraternity, a fraternal love capable of seeing the sacred grandeur of our neighbor, of finding God in every human being” (#92).

“True openness involves remaining steadfast in ones deepest convictions, clear and joyful in one’s own identity, while at the same time being ‘open to understanding those of the other party,’ and ‘knowing that dialogue can enrich each side’ ” (#251).

“Evangelization and interreligious dialogue, far from being opposed, mutually support and nourish one another” (# 251).

The work of evangelization is something we are all called to as Christians. Yet it can, admittedly, be confusing, challenging, and difficult to know just how to carry on this work which was begun in the waters of our baptism.

We turn to our loving God, in whose image we are uniquely created, seeking clarity and wisdom. And then—let us turn to our neighbor, who is also created in the image of God, and allow ourselves to be evangelized by their joy, their suffering, their goodness, their love, their story, and mostly, their inherent dignity.

Allowing ourselves to be evangelized and formed by the goodness of others offers us a great grace in the work of evangelization.

(Mary Schaffner is associate director of spirituality at Our Lady of Fatima Retreat House in Indianapolis.)

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