March 1, 2014
Just as the Church goes through liturgical seasons, it seems equally true that the entire life of the people of God can be seasonal. Vatican II, the council held in the 60’s, was the source from which the new evangelization was to blossom, and yet, what followed was arguably a period of great testing for all believers. The season which descended upon the Church was akin to the desert experience following Christ’s baptism. It is not what one would have expected.
From our vantage point, what should have happened was a renewed interest in catechesis, a shared enthusiasm for the Mass and its ancient expression, and of course a bold proclamation of the Christian message to the world. This, at least, we would have recognized as a logical outpouring of the Spirit, blessing the work of the Council.
Instead the historical situation is quite different. The Church’s liturgy as well as its catechesis very quickly became a point of contention. And rather than providing an obvious link to the work of the Council, liturgy and catechesis became battle grounds on which the Faithful in the pews struggled to identify the Body of Christ.
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The proclamation of the Good News was also hindered to great degree by other factors. For example, the Church’s missionary activity wavered, as many had read the documents of Vatican II to mean that any sharing of the Gospel with words was antagonistic and contrary to the Gospel itself.
Perhaps the most crushing blow to evangelization came with the priestly abuse crisis in 2003. For others it now became very clear; the Church was in the same kind of mess as the rest of the world, and probably worse. But for Catholics, the response was quite different. It was the growing belief that we as Catholics had no right to evangelize, to share the Good News of Jesus, because we ourselves were not living the life that our Lord demands of us. It was (and still is in many places)the belief that until we get the sacraments and catechesis right, we will never get evangelization right.
Pope Francis in his wonderful document entitled Evangelii Gaudium or Joy of the Gospel, strives hard to shatter this myth. In persuasive words, he argues that we cannot wait until we are perfect, or know everything, or can offer the greatest spiritual experiences within the parish. Evangelization begins with a joy of meeting Jesus and then wanting to share that experience with those we love.
[av_two_third first]It is precisely the Biblical story of the woman at the well. Having met Jesus, she becomes a story teller, a guide, a proclaimer, and we would say an evangelist, to those in her community.
The Church is saying to you and me, as She did at the Second Vatican Council, that we are all called to holiness, so get out there! It is no longer the case that we can leave it to the priests and religious to go after the lost sheep. We ourselves must go in search of them, with our lives, words and witness.
Of course this poses some practical difficulties, primarily the question of where to begin. A little less than a year ago, when discussing this very topic a friend said to me, “You know, a lot of people are telling us to evangelize, but no one is showing us how to evangelize.”
I have taken that to heart. Since then, I have been exploring ways to bring Jesus to those we love with new fervor, methods and expression. The result: the book, Dare To Be An Evangelist: Evangelizing those we love one day at a time. Over the span of forty days, the reader is given a daily challenge that is short enough to be read before the morning coffee but powerful enough to lead other people to Jesus Christ.
This is a practical book, and Lent is the perfect time to get started.
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So I dare you, bring Jesus to people, and change lives![/av_two_third] [av_one_third]