Last week, we looked at the image of the fortress. For me, the image invokes thoughts of strength, security and protection. The image is comforting, especially when used in relation to one’s faith. But we want to be careful that we don’t live the faith with a fortress mentality. That is contrary to the Gospel, which calls us to go and make disciples.
In order to evangelize, we need to operate outside the walls of our faith fortresses. Francis Fernandez shares additional insight from In Conversation With God, « Ours is an age when Christ needs men and women who are able to stand beside the Cross, strong, daring, simple, hard workers, without any human respect when it comes to doing good; men and women who are cheerful, who have as the foundation of their lives prayer-a relationship with Jesus that is full of friendship.”
If we only share our faith and witness with other Catholics – or worse, keep it to ourselves – how will the Church grow and spread Christ’s message of love? Will we make the necessary commitments to heed the call of Scripture, the leadership of the Popes, Vatican II and the Catechism? What are simple ways we can all evangelize and bear witness for Christ? I prayerfully and respectfully ask you to consider doing the following:
Pray for courage. Pray that the Holy Spirit will work through us. Pray for opportunities to bear witness. Pray that God will allow us to recognize opportunities for evangelization. Make the Sign of the Cross and pray grace before each meal (public and private) and say prayers as a family. Prayer is the key, because it prepares both our hearts and those of others for moments of truth and grace.
Be a Light for Christ
You can be a light in your workplace, at home, in the community and with friends. Be a joyful, forgiving and generous person: Next to prayer, this is the most effective thing we can do. Let Christ’s love and the blessings he has given us be apparent to others. They will want to know the source of our happiness and will likely initiate a faith conversation. “You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father” (Matthew 5: 13-14, 16).
Keep our own faith journeys on track
It would be hypocritical for us to share the message of Christ’s love unless we believed it and lived it. This means living our faith at home and teaching our children about the Church and Christ’s love for them. Pray, attend Mass, go to reconciliation frequently, go to Eucharistic Adoration, observe the sacraments, study our faith and be joyful Christians. These actions will prepare us to share with sincerity the impact Christ has in our lives.
Share our story with others and give witness to the blessings of Jesus in our lives
As I suggested last week, be transparent! If we feel uncomfortable asking others about their faith, why not share ours? They will most likely be moved by our example and be open in return.
Reach out to the Lazarus in our lives every day
Lazarus is the poor man covered with sores at the gate of the rich man in Christ’s parable related in Luke 16:19-31. Can you think of a greater witness for Christ than to emulate our Lord and help those most in need? Think of the sick, jobless, depressed, troubled people in our lives and reach out to them. Parish ministry is one of the best ways for us to get involved and make a difference. As we help them through their troubles, the Holy Spirit can work through us to share God’s message of love!
Share a book, a YouTube video, article, or homily related to the Faith
This is a wonderful act of kindness that will help someone grow spiritually and give us ample opportunity for further discussion about Christ and His Church. An interesting perspective on this type of evangelism is that it creates a safe environment to begin a faith dialogue. You can ask, “The book I gave you really touched my heart and helped me learn to pray – what did you think of it?” or » Did you listen to the talk I sent you by Peter Kreeft on the 7 reasons to be Catholic? After hearing it I really feel better prepared to explain our Faith to others!” You get the picture. Let your gift open the door for a rich and engaging conversation, then allow the Holy Spirit to take over.
The fortress mentality is a real issue for many of us. We have to remain committed and diligent about living our faith beyond those walls. This article is focused on simple ways to witness, but there are countless other ways to bring people Christ’s message, including extending an invitation to Mass or a parish event. Whatever we do or plan to do, God will bless us for heeding the call to evangelization.
Reflect on this quote from Pope St. John Paul II, who wrote in Springtime for Evangelism:
« Evangelism is the Church’s effort to proclaim to everyone that God loves them, that he has given himself for them in Christ Jesus, and that he invites them to an unending life of happiness. Once this Gospel has been accepted as the “good news”, it demands to be shared. All baptized Christians must commit themselves to evangelization, conscious that God is already at work in the mind and hearts of their listeners, just as he prompted the Ethiopian to ask for baptism when Philip told him “the good news of Jesus” (Acts 8: 35) Evangelization is thus a part of the great mystery of God’s self-revelation to the world: it involves the human effort to preach the Gospel and the powerful work of the Holy Spirit in those who encounter its saving message. Since we are proclaiming a mystery, we are servants of a supernatural gift, which surpasses anything our human minds are fully grasping or explaining, yet which attracts by its inner logic and beauty.”
I am hopeful that this image of the fortress and its dual nature will encourage you to reflect on your approach to evangelization. We can either live securely inside our faith fortress or we can heed the call to evangelize and operate outside its walls. To those who faithfully practice evangelization the way our Lord intended, thank you for showing us the way by your example. As lay people, we can make a dramatic impact on the lives of so many individuals if we will only accept our responsibility to share the dramatic impact Christ has on our lives. Who will hear our stories today?