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I guess the question presupposes the reader actually is evangelizing others, or at least trying to. But why do we do it? Or, if we’re not actively engaged in evangelization, why are others?
Well, I would like to offer you my top seven reasons we might be trying to evangelize others, all of which can found in scripture.
First, we feel called to evangelize. St. Paul writes to Timothy:
“For this gospel I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher, and therefore I suffer as I do” (2 Tim 1:11-12a).
“For this I was appointed a preacher and apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth” (1 Tim 2:7).
Secondly, the evangelist may feel a divine compulsion. St Paul wrote the following to the believers at Corinth:
“For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel” (1 Cor 9:16).
Luke records the following response of Peter and John in the book of Acts:
“…we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20).
Thirdly, evangelization is seen as a God-given responsibility. Paul, once again, writing to the Church at Corinth:
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive good or evil, according to what he has done in the body. Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men; but what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience” (2 Cor 5:10-11).
Fourth, the evangelist has a desire to win the lost. St Paul certainly possessed a heart for the lost and so he wrote to the believers in Rome:
“Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved” (Rom 10:1).
“I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish: so I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome” (Rom 1:14-15).
A fifth reason we evangelize is because we recognize the eventually of a coming judgement:
“My brethren, if any one among you wanders from the truth and some one brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins” (Jam 5:19-20).
A sixth reason believers work at evangelizing others is because they are responding to God’s grace in their own lives:
“For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. For the love of Christ controls us, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. And he died for all, that those who live might live no longer for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised” (2 Cor 5:13-15).
The seventh reason Christians evangelize is because of their confidence in the Gospel. Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome:
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel: it is the power of God for salvation to every one who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Rom 1:16).
I know a “top seven” sounds a bit strange; why not a “top 10?”
Well I was going to write a “top 10” but then I thought I’d ask YOU to come up with remaining three. So how about it; can you help me round out my “top 10” reasons why we evangelize?
Tell me why you evangelize in the comments section below. If you have a corresponding scripture reference to share, that is great, but not required. I’m looking forward to your answers!
Last week, Archbishop Aquila released a pastoral letter, “Family: Become What You Are.” Aside from an awesome title, this letter is a shot in the arm for those of us in families. (Oh wait, that’s ALL OF US.)
So your homework this summer, no matter how busy or distracted or disinclined you are, is to read this…twice. Read it once and then read it again, slowly. What’s God saying to you through Archbishop Aquila’s words? Could there be inspiration for you? How can this letter impact your family?
But wait, there’s more. The Archdiocese of Denver has a few supporting resources that are nothing short of rockin’ awesome. Because how else is your family going to become what you are? These are tools to get you there.
Tips You’ll Use Right Away
First, there’s the video, “5 Ways to a Stronger Family.”
Eating and Faith Go Hand-in-Hand
Next, we have a tool that every parent needs: “A Month of Dinnertime Conversations.” Have you ever wondered how you are supposed to instill faith in your children when you don’t know enough yourself? Do you feel intimidated by the immensity of your responsibility? Are you just plain unsure?
- Name your favorite thing about being Catholic.
- God gives each of us our own Guardian Angel to guide us through life. How do you think your Guardian Angel could help strengthen our family?
- What is your favorite prayer?
I plan to share these far and wide. I’ve had so many parents make comments to me about how they so appreciate my work as a catechist. I try to remind them (probably too much) that my work is supplemental, supportive, secondary to the work they do. And here’s a tool for them to use that’s easy and effective. Booyah!
Pray the Family Rosary
And finally, a resource that I appreciate so much it brings tears to my eyes: “Family-Friendly Scriptural Meditations on the Rosary” (in both English and Spanish).
Am I the only one who sees the family rosary as this insurmountable hurdle? Oh, I know, I know. I should be praying it with my family.
And now, now, I just might. This four-page pdf (one page for each set of mysteries) includes short meditations for each mystery of the rosary. They’re written with families in mind. And by “families in mind” I mean “people who aren’t necessarily thrilled to be taking time to do this and who maybe don’t have a clue what these mysteries mean.”
The idea is that someone in your family would read this before you pray the prayers of the decade. They’re easy to read and yet thought-provoking for every age.
For example, here’s what’s included for the second Luminous Mystery, the Wedding at Cana:
The second Luminous Mystery is the Wedding Feast of Cana, where Mary teaches us one of the most important lessons in life. She tells the servants at the wedding feast to do whatever Jesus tells them to do. In our lives, are we willing to do whatever Jesus tells us to do? Let’s ask Mary to pray with us that we might have the graces necessary to do whatever Jesus calls us to do in this life, as well as the ability to trust in Mary’s intercession for us, as Jesus answered his mother’s request that day in Cana.
If you get to the point (or are already at the point) where you want to highlight the fruit of the mystery, they’re also included.
Summer Reading You Deserve
I leave you with this excerpt from the Archbishop’s letter:
When a husband and wife give of themselves and share love and truth with each other, they are able to reflect the image of the Holy Trinity. This sharing in life and love is in turn echoed in the hearts of their children and helps bring the Kingdom of God to earth. God created the world and the human race through the gift of his Word and the breath of the Spirit. In a similar way, men and women are able to participate in creation by bringing children into the world through their mutual consent and one flesh union.
Sadly, our society has lost this understanding of marriage. Instead, the culture has dramatically shifted to promoting the individual and his or her supposed rights, often at the expense of the family. The idea of a “sincere gift of self ” – even in the context of marriage – seems irrelevant
and a distant reality. In contemporary Western culture, marriage and the family have suffered the consequences of this shift, and no one has been hurt more by it than children, who deserve the committed, selfless love of their mother and father.
Seriously, go read it and put these resources to work in your family. You won’t be sorry you did.
One of the keys to the new evangelization is the sharing of our stories, the recalling and retelling of how we came to know Jesus in a personal way — and how our lives changed because of it. This encountering Jesus, and becoming members of His Body, the Church, is the overarching theme in the seven podcasts listed below, drawn from the Among Women archives. I’m thankful for the seven women who gave witness to their faith in Christ in these recordings, so that others might be strengthened and encouraged to do the same. Your testimony to God’s love in your life is important. Think about ways you might share your story with others, as you listen to these stories.
AW 43 A Chat with Amazing Catechist, Lisa Mladinich – Get to know the founder of Amazing Catchechists, author Lisa Mladinich, who tells the story of her reversion to the Catholic faith. Listen!
AW 178: New Life in Christ – When an unplanned pregnancy interrupts this successful single career woman’s life plan, she returns to the faith of her youth and discovers God’s plan for her in a new way. Listen!
AW 40 Becoming a Catholic – This episode talks with Earline Tweedie, a former Methodist, now a Catholic, by way of the RCIA. Also inspiring is her sharing her story of mothering a son with Down’s Syndrome. Listen!
AW 1 — The Among Women Premiere – (and there’s a part two) Join me on my very first podcast from March 2009, and after I overcome the jitters, listen to Virginia Kimball, a PhD in Mariology today, discuss her life and growth as a Christian, and her eventual return to school in midlife to study theology. Listen!
AW 131 The Vocation Story of a Young Nun — More of a memoir of her faith journey, Sr Emily Beata Marsh FSP, one of the newest members of the Daughters of St Paul describes her vocation experience and her recent vows. Listen!
I read Pope Francis’ address to the Spanish Bishops who were in Rome two weeks ago for their ad limina visits. In his remarks he mentioned the role of the family in the context of the New Evangelization:
An evangelized family is a valuable agent of evangelization, especially radiating the wonder that God has worked in it. Moreover, being by nature the ambit of generosity, it will promote the birth of vocations to the following of the Lord in the priesthood or consecrated life.
“An evangelized family…” I like that phrase. I also like the vision Pope Francis has for it; specifically, that an “evangelized family” radiates God’s wonder and is the birthplace of new vocations.
So I decided to do some poking around to see what the modern popes have said about the role of the family in evangelization, in ministry, and in the Church in general. I thought I would be able to find a decent amount of material, but man, oh man, I never expected to find so much!
Here are some selections of what I found, presented in no particular order.
Secularity is the true and distinctive mark of the lay person and of lay spirituality, which means that the laity strive to evangelize the various sectors of family, social, professional, cultural and political life. On a continent marked by competition and aggressiveness, unbridled consumerism and corruption, lay people are called to embody deeply evangelical values such as mercy, forgiveness, honesty, transparency of heart and patience in difficult situations. What is expected from the laity is a great creative effort in activities and works demonstrating a life in harmony with the Gospel” (Blessed Pope John Paul II, Ecclesia in America, #44).
“God the Creator, by forming the first man and woman and commanding them to ‘be fruitful and multiply’ (Gen 1:28), definitively established the family. In this sanctuary life is born and is welcomed as God’s gift. The word of God, faithfully read in the family, gradually builds it up as a domestic church and makes it fruitful in human and Christian virtues; it is there that the source of vocations is to be found (Blessed Pope John Paul II, Ecclesia in America, #46).
I therefore invite all the Catholics of America to take an active part in the evangelizing initiatives which the Holy Spirit is stirring in every part of this immense continent, so full of resources and hopes for the future. In a special way, I invite Catholic families to be “domestic Churches”, in which the Christian faith is lived and passed on to the young as a treasure, and where all pray together. If they live up to the ideal which God places before them, Catholic homes will be true centers of evangelization (Blessed Pope John Paul II, Ecclesia in America, #76).
The family’s catechetical activity has a special character, which is in a sense irreplaceable. This special character has been rightly stressed by the Church, particularly by the Second Vatican Council.(118) Education in the faith by parents, which should begin from the children’s tenderest age, is already being given when the members of a family help each other to grow in faith through the witness of their Christian lives, a witness that is often without words but which perseveres throughout a day-to-day life lived in accordance with the Gospel (Blessed John Paul II, Catechesi Tradendae, #68).
Our thoughts turn also to Christian families, to ask them to remain faithful to their vital mission in society. May they consecrate themselves in this jubilee year to the Immaculate Heart of Mary! For married couples this act of piety will be a valuable aid in performing their conjugal duties of chastity and faithfulness. It will keep pure the atmosphere in which their children grow up. Even more, it will make the family, inspired by its devotion to Mary, a living center of social rebirth and apostolic influence (Pope Pius XII, Le Pelerinage de Lourdes, #53).
Indeed, let this be clearly understood, especially in these our days: fathers and mothers of families, those who are godparents through Baptism, and in particular those members of the laity who collaborate with the ecclesiastical hierarchy in spreading the Kingdom of the Divine Redeemer occupy an honourable, if often a lowly, place in the Christian community, and even they under the impulse of God and with His help, can reach the heights of supreme holiness, which, Jesus Christ has promised, will never be wanting to the Church (Pope Pius XII, Mystici Corporis, #17).
Everyone knows that the Christian family is a special sign of the presence and love of Christ and that it is called to give a specific and irreplaceable contribution to evangelization (Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, Homily during Mass for the National Day of Croatian Catholic Families).
The good that the Church and society as a whole expect from marriage and from the family founded upon marriage is so great as to call for full pastoral commitment to this particular area. Marriage and the family are institutions that must be promoted and defended from every possible misrepresentation of their true nature, since whatever is injurious to them is injurious to society itself (Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, Sacramentum Caritatis, #29).
And on and on and on…
There is no doubt of the importance of the family unit in building up future members of the Church (and society) through evangelization and by producing vocations to the priesthood, diaconate, and religious life. I pray that during this Lenten season you take inventory of your family’s spiritual health and find ways to strengthen it.
A slightly different version of this post was originally published online at Christopher’s Apologies on March 6, 2014.
There are two things which prompted me to write this article: the New Evangelization and Pope Francis’ insistence that believers must get out of their comfort zones and reach out to others.
German theologian, Heinz Zahrnt (1915-2003), wrote on numerous topics, but he is arguably most known for his writings on secularization and how Christians can still provide an effective witness in the midst of it. In order to lay the groundwork and provide context for my own comments on Zahrnt’s work, I think it is important to show why I think it is important to study the work of theologians like Zahrnt. First off, I think he rightly defines secularization and it’s spread throughout our culture:
In the modern age, secularization, the ordering of the world on it’s own terms, has overwhelmed every province of life like an avalanche…. The process of secularization has largely been complete and is the accepted characteristic of our whole life and existence (The Question of God).
Therefore, given this “accepted characteristic of our whole life,” Christians must be able to articulate the Good News in a world seeking to order itself on “it’s own terms,” a concept contrary to the Gospel (cf. Prov 16:3, MT 6:33, 2 Tim 4:2). Zahrnt believes Christianity has been presented a challenge:
Christian faith must be confronted in ruthless honesty with the changed reality of the world…and also the changed relationship of man to the reality of the world…” (The Question of God).
In his book, Gott Kann Nich Sterben (God Cannot Die), which was released in 1972 under the English title, What Kind of God? A Question of Faith, Zahrnt offers five presuppositions which he feels need to be accepted as givens when preaching the gospel in the modern world. While he outlines particular challenges associated with each presupposition, I can see there are also unique opportunities which Christians can benefit from individually and collectively. Additionally, I believe both Zahrnt’s challenges and the opportunities I outline help to create inroads for believers to share their faith.
The first presupposition is: there is a scientific explanation for most of our experiences in the world. Whether it is the weather, medical cures, fortunes/misfortunes of individuals, or victories in war, there are explanations for these things, and almost all other phenomena, which do not require any reference to God (I say “almost” because miracles still happen). Many people left the Church over the centuries because their faith had been damaged by the discovery that a reference to the divine is not required in order to know or understand how things work in the world.
There are some who like to create a “tension” between religion and science which, in reality, does not exist. A scientific explanation for many of the phenomena in the world, formerly attributed to God, provides the opportunity to invite people to a more personal, inward encounter with God. People who seek God in secondary effects (e.g. thunder, financial reward) are missing the point of the Incarnation: God has invited us into a personal relationship with him (that is a phenomenon (an experience) science can’t explain).
People don’t (or at least they shouldn’t) maintain close, earthly relationships because of what the other person can do for them; they maintain them because they want to be in relationship with the other person. So too with God. People should want to be in a relationship with him and not just see him as their “genie in the bottle,” granting wishes or showing off his limitless power.
The second presupposition Zahrnt offers is: people’s concept of authority has changed. Nothing is accepted as “true” any more without being subjected to the judgement of reason. No longer will people accept, “because it’s in the Bible” or “because the Church says so” as sufficient justification for anything.
The opportunity now available is Christians can deepen their faith, truly trusting in God with their whole heart, and not only when good fortunes are plentiful (cf. Job 2:10, Mt 5:45). People are not slaves, in the sense that they have no will of their own. Believers can take their faith to greater depths because of what they learn. Consider what Thomas Aquinas writes on this subject:
Reason and intellect in man cannot be distinct powers. We shall understand this clearly if we consider their respective actions. For to understand is simply to apprehend intelligible truth: and to reason is to advance from one thing understood to another, so as to know an intelligible truth. And therefore angels, who according to their nature, possess perfect knowledge of intelligible truth, have no need to advance from one thing to another; but apprehend the truth simply and without mental discussion, as Dionysius says (Div. Nom. vii). But man arrives at the knowledge of intelligible truth by advancing from one thing to another; and therefore he is called rational (ST I, Q.79, A. 8)
Christians should not persist in having a “blind faith.” There may be a time when a person first accepts the gift of faith (CCC 162) that their faith is “blind,” in the sense that it has not matured through the use reason. However, Christians are to progress in their faith, deepen it, through the use of their reason and intellect (cf. Rom 12:2, 1 Cor 13:11, 1 Cor 14:20, 2 Pt 3:17-18).
The third presupposition pointed out by Zahrnt is people today are more critical of ideology. The modern world, with all its technological advancements (especially in communications), is able to see the social misuse of religion by individuals or by groups, both inside and outside the Church. The most obvious example is the scandalous actions of some priests brought to light in the last 15 years even though most of the incidents occurred 30-50 years ago. The complicity of their bishops, an arguably even worse crime, who used their power to protect an unjust status quo is what creates and nurtures the distrust of the Church’s leadership. People will not accept a lack of transparency justified by a claim to divine right to protect those who have broken the law.
However in the midst of this there is an opportunity for both individuals and the Church. People should walk before God, and before temporal rulers, with their dignity intact. There is a possibility to (re)discover what it means to be “fearfully and wonderfully made” in the “image of God” with an intrinsic and undeniable dignity (cf. Gen 1:27, Ps 139:14, CCC 1700). Additionally, the Church should focus on it’s primary mission of saving souls by introducing them to love, which is most perfectly expressed in the relationship of the Trinity (CCC 850). I definitely see this message coming through loud and clear in Pope Francis’ pontificate.
Zahrnt writes, as his fourth presupposition, that men and women in modern society are more focused on the here and now and not the hereafter. Modern society recognizes, even promotes, the autonomy of earthly structures (e.g. science, academia, politics, etc.) from religion. The Church will continue to makes its voice heard on issues within these structures, but the days of the Church having any real control, or influence, in those realms is gone, or at least is quickly fading.
However, there is great opportunity in the midst of this reality. Believers can now look at how very intimate God wants to be with his people. God does not want to be the metaphysical “big brother,” enforcing his will through temporal means (e.g. government); that is not what it means to be in a relationship. Additionally, God offers his children opportunities to deepen their relationship with him and to experience the depths of his unconditional love in the midst of secular society, not through its structures. Consider what the Council Fathers taught during the Second Vatican Council:
This life of intimate union with Christ in the Church is nourished by spiritual aids which are common to all the faithful, especially active participation in the sacred liturgy. These are to be used by the laity in such a way that while correctly fulfilling their secular duties in the ordinary conditions of life, they do not separate union with Christ from their life but rather performing their work according to God’s will they grow in that union (AA #4).
The fifth and final presupposition Zahrnt mentions is modern man’s orientation to the future. People today don’t spend a lot of time reflecting on the past. In fact, today it could be argued progressivism is regarded as some kind of universal virtue. One of modernity’s critiques of religion is that it is too rooted in the past: rituals used to worship deities are antiquated, steeped in tradition. In today’s culture, even the very idea of God’s existence is considered by many as out-dated. Modern man claims people must move beyond the childish idea of religious superstition (i.e. first presupposition) and recognize the brightness of man’s future can only be dimmed by mankind’s refusal to let go of religious belief.
Within modern man’s obsession with progressivism there is an opportunity for Christians to create new expressions for belief in the eternal dimensions of their faith. Do Christians take seriously Jesus’ eschatological promises: that he will come again to judge all of mankind and that he is preparing a place for his friends in heaven (cf. Mt 16:27-28, Mt 25:31-46, Jn 14:3)?
This idea of a “final judgement,” which often carries a negative connotation, can be showcased positively in light of the previous points made here; specifically, the eternal dimension of faith can begin right now by accepting the invitation to an intimate, loving relationship with God.
Where do we go to know how to engage the modern world for the New Evangelization? What resources can to look to to assist us as evangelizers – those who desire to proclaim the truths of the Gospel message? At the heart of it is the kerygma, which is the essential proclamation of the Gospel message. In addition the living sources of the Faith – Liturgy, church fathers, saints, Church documents, ecumenical councils (all a part of the living Tradition of the Church). The first place to go where all this is systematically and organically presented is the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
During the Synod on the New Evangelisation Pope Benedict XVI gave a message to the world’s catechists for those who transmit the faith and one of my friends was chosen to receive this message personally from the pope. What did Pope Benedict give her?
First, let me say that just as at the close of the Second Vatican Council when Pope Paul VI delivered special messages to various groups, Pope Benedict XVI concluded the Mass for the 50th anniversary of the opening of Vatican II by giving special messages. These were the same messages given by Paul VI except that an additional one was added for all those who transmit the faith.
This message given by the Holy Father to my friend on behalf of all who transmit the faith were not additional words, but a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church – the Catechism was the message.
Dr. Petroc Willey said the following about how the Catechism is a key instrument for the New Evangelization:
“In 1992, the key instrument for the New Evangelization appeared, in the form of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The Catechism was written with the express intention of communicating to the world the ardour of God’s love for us, communicating on every page the Good News of the love that has no beginning, that ‘never ends’, and that overflows for each one of us in the work of redeeming grace. It is new in its means of expression, and especially in the language of a deep respect of human freedom, as we are each invited to collaborate with God’s grace. And it is from the Catechism that new methods can securely emerge, methods that follow the unique pedagogy of the faith laid out and presented in the pages of this work (The Catechism at the Service of the New Evangelization).”
The Catechism is “the key instrument” because it not only contains the essentials of the faith to be handed on, but it also communicates the Faith with the explicit intention of illustrating how enormously attractive it is. The Catechism also has the intention of inviting one to encounter the living God – the Father, Son and Holy Spirit and be brought into deeper communion with God.
I know the title for this post might raise an eyebrow but I promise, in a few minutes it will make sense. It’s not the beginning of a bad joke like, “A priest, a rabbi, and a minister walk into a bar…” And even though the title is, Jesus, a theologian, and a rock star, I am actually going to discuss each of those people in the reverse order. I mean, Jesus has to get top billing in the title, right? First, the rock star…
I was listening to satellite radio (i.e. Sirius) yesterday and stopped on the hard rock station, Octane. The band that was on at the time is called Stone Sour and they were singing their new song, Do Me a Favor. I am familiar with the band but had never heard this particular song before; the lyrics didn’t strike me as any radical departure from the norm of today’s hard rock.
The song had plenty of angst and rage directed outwardly; the lyrics didn’t really leave me with an understanding of who or what the target was for all the rage, although the imagery in the video suggests the lyricist has some daddy issues and a beef with the Catholic Church.
Basically, I see the song as just another contribution to a culture that is already bursting at the seams with angst and rage. In fact, the first line of the song begins with, “I am an anti-everything man…” so that kind of lets you know from the beginning where the whole thing is going.
Despite the rage, the second time the chorus was sung, it did get my attention. The first half of it goes like this:
So do me a favor
Is just a reason why
There is no savior
I know it may be a little difficult without the melody, such as it is, but the way it is sung leaves the listener with the impression that someone’s behavior is why there is no savior. Now objectively that is ridiculous. No one’s behavior, good or bad, can cause a savior to exist or not exist. Or can it? Let’s hear from our theologian – Dr. Ralph Martin.
Dr. Martin’s latest book, Will Many Be Saved: What Vatican II Actually Teaches and Its Implications for the New Evangelization, is the published version of his doctoral dissertation which dug deeply into the Vatican II Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium). In working his way through the doctrinal developments of Lumen Gentium, Dr. Martin also refers to the Council’s Decree on Ecumenism (Unitatis Redintegratio) and at one point quotes from paragraph four of the decree. I think after reading it, you may begin to pick up on the connection to song lyric I mentioned above:
For although the Catholic Church has been endowed with all divinely revealed truth and with all means of grace, yet its members fail to live by them with all the fervor that they should, so that the radiance of the Church’s image is less clear in the eyes of our separated brethren and of the world at large, and the growth of God’s kingdom is delayed (UR 4a (my emphasis added)).
Do you see that? Members of the Church – Christians – failing to live their life of faith adequately are impeding the growth of God’s Kingdom! Dr. Martin adds his commentary on this section of Unitatis Redintegratio:
Not every proclamation of the gospel can be deemed “adequate,” either because of deficiency of content, manner, or witness of life, and therefore not everyone who apparently rejects such an “inadequate” preaching of the gospel can be judged culpable of unbelief” (Martin, 53 (my emphasis added)).
This is really significant and should be a wake up call for Christians. If our “witness of life” (i.e. “behaviors”) is an inadequate representation of the gospel, then it is the Christian who will be held accountable for their neighbor’s unbelief.
For example, if you preach and preach at your neighbor about reforming their lives and returning to the Church, but everything they see you do is contrary to the gospel, then the fact they didn’t choose to believe and return to the Church is as much on you, as it is on them, maybe even more.
So this leads us to Jesus (as everything should). How many different instructions did Jesus leave us on how to act? Honestly, not a lot; it was always the same instruction, just perhaps worded a little differently each time:
- A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another (Jn 13:34)
- By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another (Jn 13:35)
- You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these (Mk 12:30-31).
- Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends (Jn 15:13).
- But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you (Mt 5:44).
- If you love me, you will keep my commandments (Jn 15:14)
I think you might be catching on by now on what Jesus’ expectations for us are (I sure hope so!).
It is possible, sadly it is even quite common today, for people not to believe there is a savior, to think one doesn’t even exist. And why is that? Well, it might be they have hardened their hearts to such a degree that no amount of persuasive talk and loving generosity will change their mind. If that is the case, we are not released from our obligation to love them but they will held culpable for the unbelief.
However, there is a chance that some are not as convinced by persuasive talk as they would be by seeing a living example of Christ’s love. If they can’t see that in us and decide all our talk is just that – talk – then it us who will be held accountable for their unbelief.