I invite you right here and now to begin evangelizing. Where do we begin? We begin in prayer. Why? We are told by our Bishops in Go and Make Disciples – A National Plan and Strategy for Catholic Evangelization in the United States.
“These goals [of evangelization] are meaningless unless they are steeped in prayer. Without prayer, the Good News of Jesus Christ cannot be understood, spread, or accepted. These goals can be accomplished only by opening our hearts to God, who gives to his children everything they seek, who responds when we knock, and who answers when we persevere in asking.“
What Goals? There are three goals for our plan of evangelization.
Goal I: To bring about in all Catholics such an enthusiasm for their faith that, in living their faith in Jesus, they freely share it with others
Goal II: To invite all people in the United States, whatever their social or cultural background, to hear the message of salvation in Jesus Christ so they may come to join us in the fullness of the Catholic faith, and finally
Goal III: To foster gospel values in our society, promoting the dignity of the human person, the importance of the family, and the common good of our society, so that our nation may continue to be transformed by the saving power of Jesus Christ
When I think of Goal I, I think of a good friend of mine. We used to get together for lunch once a week and practice our apologetics. One day he was telling me about his office space. He was a convert to Catholicism and is on fire with the a burning love for the Faith. He had a crucifix, Bible and copy of the Liturgy of the Hours at his desk. He would pause a few minutes during the day to pray or read the Bible.
He was not a person who would corner you and start hurling arguments to convince you about the truths of the faith as you might imagine. He was a kind and gentle person who would simply live his Faith in those quiet moments that occur during an ordinary day. And it was through his quiet prayer that people would begin to ask him about the faith. It opened the door to sharing the beauty of our Faith as St. Peter suggested: “Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence” (1 Pet 3:15-16)
Goal II is the essence of love of neighbor. When we invite others to learn more about the Catholic Faith or participate more fully, we are helping them to find the happiness that can only be found through a deep Faith life. Pope Benedict called evangelization “teaching the art of living”. That is what our Faith does. It teaches us how to live. If you had the secret to a happy life, wouldn’t you share it? Guess what…. you have that.
Last, but certainly not least, Goal III seeks to transform society through the saving power of Jesus Christ. I think all will agree that our world is in desperate need of His transformation.
But this is a tricky one. You see, when I start talking about evangelizing society, it conjures up the image of door to door evangelists. But before you turn the channel, I encourage you to hang in there. There are many ways to evangelize our society without knocking on a single door. (Though I wouldn’t stop you if you were called to that type of evangelization.
Now, should a parish adopt these goals? Consider what the Bishops say. In Go and Make Disciples it says, “every element of the parish must respond to the evangelical imperative—priests and religious, lay persons, staff, ministers, organizations, social clubs, parochial schools, and parish religious education programs. Otherwise, evangelization will be something a few people in the parish see as their ministry—rather than the reason for the parish’s existence and the objective of every ministry in the parish.
“The reason for the parish’s existence”? Well now… does your parish evangelize?