“Faith is the most important gift that we have been given in life;
we cannot keep it just for ourselves. – Benedict XVI
Some months ago I was in a conversation with a man who worked with the poor through a well-known Catholic charitable organization. During the course of our conversation I began to speak on the topic of evangelization and sharing the Gospel. He told me that he didn’t believe we should talk about Jesus with people but simply preach through our actions alone. “Preach and it’s not necessary to use words,” he said. I have often heard St. Francis misquoted in this way. And while I appreciated his sincere attempt at interpretation, the fact is that this way of “living the Gospel” instead of proclaiming the Good News is misguided and certainly not the teaching of the Catholic Church nor its founder.
Pope Paul VI once wrote:
The proclamation of the gospel must be made above all else by witness…Nevertheless this always remains insufficient because even the finest witness will prove ineffective in the long run if it is not explained, justified …and made explicit by a clear and unequivocal proclamation of the Lord Jesus… There is no true evangelization if the name, the teaching, the life, the promises, the kingdom and the mystery of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God are not proclaimed.1
People deserve to hear the gospel from our lips. We need to stop making “excuses which would impede evangelization”2 All people have a basic human right to experience the great joy of knowing Christ. We have a sacred obligation to share with others what God has given to us.
I recently heard a song on the radio with the lyrics, “Give me Jesus, Give me Jesus.You can have all this world, Just give me Jesus.” The song profoundly moved me. I thought “how can I sing ‘you can have all this world, Just give me Jesus’ and then go out and offer the poor and broken the entire world and not Jesus?” Do I truly realize how good this news is? Could it be that I don’t believe the message of Jesus Christ really is good news? Is this the real reason why I am reluctant to share the news with others? Nevertheless it is a command of Jesus to go out into the world and preach. He didn’t give it as an option. It was the command He gave at His departure.3
How can we say we are followers of Christ if we are not inviting others to share in this Good News. “The invitation…is not to a doctrine but to know, love, and serve – not a something, but a Someone.” 4 Christ did not die so we could have air conditioning and golden candlesticks.He died so that the world may have life, life to the full. The Church exists to evangelize.5 And so “here lies the test of truth, the touchstone of evangelization: it is unthinkable that a person should accept the Word and give himself to the kingdom without becoming a person who bears witness to it and proclaims it in his turn.”6 At the dusk of our lives we will all give account of ourselves before Jesus Christ. Will you be able to say that you bore fruit or will He say “take this branch and throw it in the fire?” (John 15:6)
1 Evangelii Nuntiandi 21-22
2John Paul II in Redemptoris Missio 36
3Matthew 28: 19-20; Acts 1:8
4 Cardinal Dolan Address Feb 17
5Benedict XVI, Homily Oct 7
6Evangellii Nuntiandi 24