In his Confessions, Saint Augustine of Hippo calls out to the Lord: “Thou movest us to delight in praising Thee; for Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee.” As we enter into June with our hearts resting in the Lord and our souls blazing from spiritual renewal, we are prepared to begin the good work of our baptismal call.

Pope Francis explains in Evangelii Gaudium that within all baptized people, “the sanctifying power of the Spirit is at work, impelling us to evangelization.” He continues:

“In virtue of their baptism, all the members of the People of God have become missionary disciples (cf. Mt 28:19). All the baptized, whatever their position in the Church or their level of instruction in the faith, are agents of evangelization, and it would be insufficient to envisage a plan of evangelization to be carried out by professionals while the rest of the faithful would simply be passive recipients. The new evangelization calls for personal involvement on the part of each of the baptized. Every Christian is challenged, here and now, to be actively engaged in evangelization; indeed, anyone who has truly experienced God’s saving love does not need much time or lengthy training to go out and proclaim that love. Every Christian is a missionary to the extent that he or she has encountered the love of God in Christ Jesus: we no longer say that we are ‘disciples’ and ‘missionaries’, but rather that we are always ‘missionary disciples’.”

The concept of evangelization is often tarnished by misconceptions that we are forcing our personal beliefs onto others, limiting their freedom, and judging their choices. This is not the goal of evangelization. Instrumentum Laboris from the Synod of Bishops in 2012 states: “The original reason for evangelization is the love of Christ which seeks to bring everyone to eternal salvation. The one desire of genuine evangelizers is to give freely what they have freely received.” Pope Saint Paul VI recalls in Dignitatis Humanae: “From the very origins of the Church the disciples of Christ strove to convert men to faith in Christ as the Lord; not, however, by the use of coercion or of devices unworthy of the Gospel, but by the power, above all, of the word of God.” Pope Francis notes that evangelization “does not begin by seeking to convince others, but by bearing witness each day to the love that has watched over us and lifted us back up.”

We are compelled to share our discoveries with each other when we find something great, something exciting, something life-changing–whether it be a delicious but healthy recipe, a secret timesaving shortcut, or even a mind-blowing binge series. When we make a new friend or we fall in love with someone, we are so excited that we want to shout it from the rooftops and introduce that person to everyone we know. 

Arguably, the most exciting thing to happen in the past two thousand years is our encounter with Jesus Christ. The greatest love we ever feel comes from Our Lord; the most life-changing news we ever realize is the hope of eternal salvation. Our quest for happiness and fulfillment begins and ends with God.

Theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar reflects: “The beautiful stops the viewer in his tracks and then plants within him a desire to speak to others of what he has seen.” In Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis elaborates:

“The primary reason for evangelizing is the love of Jesus which we have received, the experience of salvation which urges us to ever greater love of him. What kind of love would not feel the need to speak of the beloved, to point him out, to make him known? If we do not feel an intense desire to share this love, we need to pray insistently that he will once more touch our hearts. We need to implore his grace daily, asking him to open our cold hearts and shake up our lukewarm and superficial existence…we have been entrusted with a treasure which makes us more human and helps us to lead a new life. There is nothing more precious which we can give to others…We have a treasure of life and love which cannot deceive, and a message which cannot mislead or disappoint. It penetrates to the depths of our hearts, sustaining and ennobling us. It is a truth which is never out of date because it reaches that part of us which nothing else can reach. Our infinite sadness can only be cured by an infinite love.”

When Jesus directs us toward the Great Commission to share the Good News, he does not expect us to do it alone. He says, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20). It is important for us to remember that as we testify to his love, he is there with us.

We begin our journey as missionary disciples with a simple introduction to Jesus. He then meets us in our sin and poverty, heals our wounded souls, and loves us despite our shortcomings. When we allow that love to burn within us, people see the way it changes our lives. “May the world, which seeks answers to the great questions of the meaning of life and truth, experience, with renewed unexpectedness, the joy of meeting witnesses of the Gospel who, through the simple and credible character of their lives, demonstrate the transforming power of the Christian faith” (Instrumentum Laboris).

“Here is the message for us: we do not have to wait until we are perfect and have come a long way following Jesus to witness to him; no, our proclamation begins today, there where we live,” advises Pope Francis. Pope Saint Paul VI summarizes:

“Upon all the laity, therefore, rests the noble duty of working to extend the divine plan of salvation to all men of each epoch and in every land. Consequently, may every opportunity be given them so that, according to their abilities and the needs of the times, they may zealously participate in the saving work of the Church” (Lumen Gentium).

For more information on evangelization, please refer to our previous post: Week Beginning April 17, 2022: He Is Risen! Go and Make Disciples. Our “Weekly Challenge” section will also provide additional insight regarding evangelization and ways to incorporate it into our lives. And feel free to share your story and your suggestions to bring Jesus Christ to those in need.

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