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Thoughts on Evangelization

  /   Tuesday March 02, 2010  

I now post my final reflection on the retreat that I went on.  Our last group discussion topic was about evangelization.  I decided to say my piece in this one, and I touched on a few different things which I will expand here.  I will be quoting the Apostolic Exhortation of Pope Paul VI, named Evangeli Nuntiandi, here, and I highly recommend reading it.

I must admit that I get a bit uneasy when I hear someone emphasize preaching by example.  It’s not that I disagree with the idea, but sometimes I think it is used as an excuse not to talk about Jesus Christ and His Church.  I remember when, as a teenager, I first heard a priest talk about our duty to preach the Gospel.  He went into several examples of preaching by example, identifying them as preaching the Gospel.  My response was somewhere along the lines of “Whew!  I don’t have to talk to anyone about Our Lord!  I can just preach by example.”

Many people are familiar with a quote from St. Francis of Assisi exhorting us to “Preach the Gospel at all times, and, when necessary, use words.”  It is absolutely essential that we preach by example, but I am quite convinced that words are very necessary these days.  Many people, through no fault of their own, have never heard of Our Lord or have heard things that are wrong.  If we preach solely by example, many will not know of what we are being an example.  Pope Paul VI addresses this in articles 41 and 42 (excerpts below):
 . . . it is appropriate first of all to emphasize the following point: for the Church, the first means of evangelization is the witness of an authentically Christian life, given over to God in a communion that nothing should destroy and at the same time given to one’s neighbor with limitless zeal. As we said recently to a group of lay people, “Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses.” AND 

Preaching, the verbal proclamation of a message, is indeed always indispensable.

Preaching by example is necessary to show someone a lived experience of the Gospel and to avoid undermining the message, but the need for words is not eliminated.  How does one know what to say?  How does one get the courage to do so?

One thing that I have shared (and need to do more of myself) is to mediate on what we have.  Think about this:

Sadly, some people don’t see the need to evangelize.  I have heard stories of people who inquired about the Catholic Church only to be told that Vatican II eliminated the need to be Catholic.  This is a lie!  Others, perhaps after having tried to bring the Gospel to someone for a time, become complacent and assume that God will save someone because he is a “good person” despite the apparent lack of faith.  This is possible, but I’d hate to depend on it.  Pope Paul VI addresses this in article 82:
It would be useful if every Christian and every evangelizer were to pray about the following thought: men can gain salvation also in other ways, by God’s mercy, even though we do not preach the Gospel to them; but as for us, can we gain salvation if through negligence or fear or shame- what St. Paul called “blushing for the Gospel”- or as a result of false ideas we fail to preach it? For that would be to betray the call of God, who wishes the seed to bear fruit through the voice of the ministers of the Gospel; and it will depend on us whether this grows into trees and produces its full fruit.

In other words, even if someone can be saved because it was of no fault of their own that they did not hear the Gospel, we will have the guilt of failing to evangelize.  Therefore, it is imperative that we do our best to live the Gospel and shine Christ’s light on others.  We want them to know the truth that sets them free!

Category: Spirituality



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