During spring and the Easter season, we look forward to newness. That is especially true this year as we step out of what has seemed to be a year-long Lent given the impact the pandemic has had upon us.
We welcome pleasant weather, take up activities that were curtailed due to COVID and personally reconnect with family and friends. We also embrace the return to our parishes where we can nurture our faith in communities of faith.
As trying as that long Lent was, one benefit was that it allowed more time for experiencing either familiar or newer forms of prayer and for deepening our relationship with Jesus. In doing so, we were preparing ourselves to help carry out the reason for our Church’s existence — to evangelize.
Evangelization does not require one to have advanced theological degrees nor is it a responsibility exclusive to the ordained. As Pope Francis stated in his apostolic exhortation, “The Joy of the Gospel”: “In all the baptized, from first to last, the sanctifying power of the Spirit is at work, impelling us to evangelization” (119).
The pope continues, “The new evangelization calls for personal involvement on the part of each of the baptized. Every Christian is challenged, here and now, to be actively engaged [emphasis added] in evangelization; indeed, anyone who has truly experienced God’s saving love does not need much time or lengthy training to go out and proclaim that love” (120).
In our prayer, worship and reception of the sacraments — all elements through which we deepen our faith — we receive the basic tools to hand on the faith. That is why the return to our parish and faith communities is so vital to the life of our Church, for it is in these communities that we experience Christ in the Eucharist, in Scripture and in each other. What we receive, we share. That is evangelization.
Evangelization is not easy. We are being asked to step out of our comfort zones into a culture that is increasingly indifferent or even, at times, hostile to the Gospel. In evangelizing, we are following in the steps of Christ, thus we might be dismissed, misunderstood or ridiculed, verbally attacked and discriminated against.
As important as words are in evangelization, so, too, are deeds. How we act within our families, our places of employment, our encounters with the public. If we act with integrity, charity and holiness, these are moments of evangelization, of how a follower of Christ gives witness to the Gospel.
In our Church, evangelization is visible through works of charity in our nursing and care facilities, hospitals, St. Francis Home, Catholic Charities and St. Vincent de Paul conferences. As Catholics, we are motivated by our mission to love those around us, especially those in need, to provide practical care and service for them. That care becomes another evangelizing moment.
At neither the diocesan nor parish level can evangelization be seen as just another “program” that takes time, energy and resources to carry out. Since evangelization is our calling, mission and purpose, it is embedded in all programs, in all forms of outreach.
Evangelization should be the lens through which we view all the activities of our Church. As Pope Francis said, it makes the kingdom of God present in our world.
Taking up the call to evangelize helps us answer this question: How are we bringing the Word of God not only to our families, friends and neighbors, but especially, as Pope Francis instructs, “above all the poor and the sick, those who are usually despised and overlooked” (“The Joy of the Gospel,” 48)?
During this Easter season, as we listen to the Acts of the Apostles and learn how Jesus’ followers encountered Christ risen from the dead, drew encouragement from those encounters and were inspired to spread the Good News, let that fire and enthusiasm be instilled within our hearts. Let us recommit to evangelizing, to joyfully proclaiming the Good News of our Risen Lord.