If you were walking on a path with food in your satchel and came across a starving man, wouldn’t you share what you had? Of course you would.
Why then do we walk by people every day who are starving for the bread of life and say to ourselves, “I don’t want to offend them by imposing my beliefs on them”. That would be like passing by the starving man and saying he may not like the taste of my food.
Evangelization is spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ. But what does that mean? Why do we want to spread the Good News? What purpose will it serve?
The textbook answer of course is because our Lord said we should. You remember. Speaking to His disciples he said “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age” That did not just apply to those standing in front of Jesus. Otherwise the faith would not have lasted beyond their lifetime. It is for all of us.
The Bishops of the United States point out that evangelization is to lift people from error. That is for all people. Remember, we begin by evangelizing ourselves. We need to be lifted from error as well. Or at least, I know I do.
I know some people who have what might be called low self esteem. They complain that they are depressed and their life lacks meaning. They just cannot seem to find happiness. Not surprisingly, they do not have much of a faith life. For if they knew the grandeur for which they were made, they would be able to attain the happiness which they crave.
God made each of us with a capacity for happiness. That capacity cannot be reached completely without reaching our final destination in Heaven where we will experience unending happiness with God. However, God gives us some happiness here on earth if we follow the path that He has laid out for us. That is, we can find happiness if we observe all that He commanded.
An inventor knows how best his or her invention should work. For example, a car will not run correctly if you put honey into the gas tank. As sweet as the liquid may be, the car will not run with that fuel.
God, our Creator gives us the instructions on how best to reach our full capacity for happiness. We simply need to follow those instructions.
The Catholic Church gives us those instructions. She teaches us the way to reach unending happiness in Heaven. Spreading that Good News has the practical result of people like you and me achieving the greatest possible happiness on earth. That is attained when we live a life in Christ. It also leads us to our final destination where we will realize the full potential for which God made us.
Pope Benedict XVI expressed the essence of evangelization in beautiful terms. In his Address to Catechists and Religion Teachers Jubilee of Catechists in December 2000 Pope Benedict XVI said that evangelization is “teaching the art of living” and showing the “path to happiness”.
If we look at evangelization in this way, it ceases to be an intellectual exercise. It is no longer a academic debate. It is a personal mission. It is the essential mission of our lives.
God made us with a capacity for perfect happiness. He sent his Son to open the Gates of Heaven and teach us how to obtain that happiness. He commanded us to go and make disciples.
It is now up to us, to follow the path that will lead to unending happiness. And as we see others on that path who may not know the way, we should help them to find their way as well by teaching them the art of living. That is evangelization.