Evangelization looks like many things
THE FOCUS FOR this edition of FAITH is the upcoming third diocesan assembly, "Made for Happiness." The work of our diocesan assemblies has flowed from Bishop Boyea's pastoral letter to the people of our diocese. It is Bishop Boyea's fervent hope that all of us will become better formed and equipped to share the message of the Gospel with all those we know – our fellow Catholics, those who are searching for deeper faith and those who have fallen away from the active practice of their faith. In short, the work of each of the assemblies has been focused on helping each of us to become better evangelizers. Yet, for most average Catholics, the idea of being called an evangelizer can make us incredibly uncomfortable.
I suppose part of that discomfort comes from thinking that in order to be an effective evangelizer we have to be willing to stand in the city square with our Bible in hand and an accusatory index finger pointed at passersby. Or perhaps the image of evangelizer that comes to mind for some means that we are expected to go door-to-door, distributing religious pamphlets or tracts to our neighbors. These are some images of evangelization, but they are not the only ones.
Evangelization can look like a family who sits down together in a restaurant to share a meal. As their appetizers arrive, they pause and quietly pray grace together, making the sign of the cross and then praying the traditional prayer, "Bless us, O Lord..." As the family is praying grace, a couple at an adjacent table happens to notice them. The couple approaches the family and a discussion ensues. It turns out that a member of the couple's extended family is gravely ill and hospitalized nearby, and the couple is in town to be with their loved one. Because they saw the family praying grace, they felt compelled to ask them to pray for the well-being of their loved one, and for peace and strength for their family. The family members assured the couple of their prayers – and there was evangelization that took place.
Evangelization can look like a caring employee who recognizes that a co-worker seems to be having a bad day. She sits down at the co-worker's work station and asks if there is anything she can do to help make things better. As the discussion unfolds, the co-worker shares that she has been away from Church for some time because she was divorced a number of years ago. The fellow employee encourages the co-worker to make an appointment with the pastor of the local parish to discuss the possibility of beginning the annulment process. She also encourages her co-worker to sit with her family, knowing that she might feel isolated if she comes to Mass alone – and evangelization took place.
Evangelization can look like the couple who helps out around the church several days a week. They are happy to do odd jobs that need to be accomplished, like painting a wall in the parish offices, fixing a broken towel dispenser in a restroom, and just making sure that things around the parish are well-cared for and in good working order. They don't expect any recognition for what they do, they just love doing it because they love God and they love their parish. Jesus is a model of service for them, and they have decided to make use of their retirement years by being of service to others in the best ways they can while they can. Others in the parish notice their quiet service and find ways to do the same. Soon, a little network of volunteers has formed to make sure that all sorts of odd jobs around the parish are taken care of – relieving the staff of extra work and easing the worries of their pastor – and evangelization took place.
These are all true stories, and my point in sharing them is this: evangelization looks like many things. At its core, though, is our willingness to put our faith to practical daily use in visible ways that go beyond our gathering for Mass on Sunday. When we do this, people inevitably notice and are drawn to simple actions of prayer and service. Often, their faith is reinforced, strengthened and nourished. Sometimes, new faith is found or old faith is rekindled. The goodness of the Gospel is lived – and that is evangelization. And so, our journey in FAITH continues.