Friday, July 10, 2009

****Evangelization Is Proclamation of the Gospel****

“Jesus began to preach and say, ‘Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” (Matt 4:17)

If you were to ask for a definition of evangelization, most Catholics would respond almost certainly with the image of explicitly proclaiming or preaching. Being the most visible part of evangelization it is no wonder that it is commonly mistaken for the entirety of evangelization. This image of an evangelist is most commonly associated with the door-to-door missionary, the street corner preacher, or those who go to foreign countries in order to spread the Gospel in far-off mission lands. While this is certainly a part of proclaiming the good news, it does not make up the whole of it and these are more extraordinary forms of evangelization and not the norm. Ask A Catholic A Question is one of these extraordinary forms of evangelization. But, we must remember that it is not the only way we should evangelize. Our task does not end once we get home from evangelizing in the streets, it only begins.

This Kerygma, or preached Gospel, is a necessary and key part of evangelization. In fact, evangelization is incomplete until the declaration of the saving message that Jesus commands us to proclaim to others is pronounced. This is of course the part of evangelization that is most intimidating to the majority of people whose hair stands on end when “evangelization” is mentioned.

A quick side note on this aspect of evangelization: as already stated, apologetics is a defense of the faith and showing that the faith is reasonable. This study of the faith can lead some to make many mistakes when sharing the faith. We should not try to win an argument rather than souls. We need to watch out for arrogance, affirmation, thinking that an apologetic argument is God’s infallible word, and when we are wrong we need to admit it.

Another common mistake, especially with new or young apologists, is using apologetics as an offensive weapon in order to beat others into submission. This is the antithesis of true evangelization. Archbishop Fulton Sheen evangelized according to the fitting motto, “win the argument, lose a soul.” If we aim to win, we are not sharing our faith out of love, but pride - and pride is the original sin. Pride keeps us from loving anyone else but ourselves as we should. Pride keeps us from humbly accepting God’s grace. Sinful pride opposes humility and as we have said, humility is necessary for all Christian in order to grow in holiness. Pride is therefore the antithesis of evangelization.

Here at St. Mary’s Catholic Center, we are blessed to be able to see numerous young people fall in love with Jesus and the Catholic faith. Many of them take hold of their faith, like other Catholics, and then feel the need to share and defend it. But, they continue to fall into the trap we outline above. We mistake offensive volleys against those that aren’t Catholic for a defense of the faith. Yet, most of those we are arguing into a corner need to be loved into the Church, not argued into it. I am certainly not saying that there is not a great need for defending the faith or being able to “give a reason for your hope” (2 Pet 3:15), but we must not forget the second part of the passage that says to do it with “gentleness and reverence.”

Let it suffice for the present to say that there is no technique that is foolproof or perfect for everyone. Any technique or program for preaching the Gospel is merely a tool. No tool is right for every situation or person. We must constantly keep in mind that evangelization is a work of love, which rises above any particular technique. When Jesus sent his followers out to preach, he had them watch his example and learn from him. Even more importantly he taught them to love. While we do want to make sure that apologetics is given proper recognition, let us not make the mistake of believing apologetics fulfills all of our evangelistic work for us.

“For we do not preach ourselves but Jesus Christ as Lord.” (2 Cor 4:5) When we do preach Christ to others we must once again take on the humble attitude of a servant wanting to please his master. Here Paul is telling the Corinthians that the purpose of his preaching isn’t to steady his own reputation or to make others think more highly of him, but rather to preach Christ. He says again:

“When I came to you, brothers, proclaiming the mystery of God, I did not come with sublimity of words or of wisdom. God I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear and much trembling, and my message and my proclamation were not with persuasive words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of spirit and power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.” (1 Cor 2: 1-5)

Paul’s humility is evident whenever he talks of the Gospel. It is not of himself, but of Christ alone. He wants no credit, no glory. Paul humbly seeks only to point out Christ and what he accomplished on the Cross, not what Paul accomplishes by being a good steward of the gifts he has been given to preach. The Catechism echoes this sentiment:

“No one can give himself the mandate and the mission to proclaim the Gospel. The one sent by the Lord does not speak and act on his own authority, but by virtue of Christ’s authority; not as a member of the community, but speaking to it in the name of Christ.” (CCC, 875)

St. Paul tells us that he was an “ambassador for Christ.” (2 Cor 5:20) An ambassador is a person given the authority of the leader they represent. As an emissary for Christ, Paul now carries the saving message of the Lord with him and is empowered to give it to others. We must see that it is not only St. Paul and the other apostles who were given this charge, but all of us who are baptized into Christ. We have all been made to share in the ministry of Christ to all souls on the earth.

“Here, there are two elements at work: witness, which is the simple living of the faith; and sharing, which is spreading the Good News of Jesus in an explicit way.” (GMD, 36)