By guest writer Nick Chui.
During a teacher training course last week, I caught up with an old colleague who is a devout Protestant. As we were chatting, he commented that I was the only Catholic he has met who has ever talked to him about Jesus and the importance of evangelization. He asked if it was the teaching of the Catholic Church that we do not evangelize.
I replied that nothing can be further from the truth. That Pope Paul VI stated in his exhortation on evangelization that “the Church exists in order to evangelize“.
I admitted that unfortunately what happens on the ground is very different.
Catholics have heard from pulpits and elsewhere that we evangelize best by our actions. There is also the phrase attributed to St. Francis, “Proclaim the Gospel always. If necessary use words.“
There is no doubt that our credible actions and transparent witness form an indispensable foundation for introducing people to Jesus Christ.
Pope Paul VI states:
…through this wordless witness these Christians stir up irresistible questions in the hearts of those who see how they live: Why are they like this? Why do they live in this way? What or who is it that inspires them? Why are they in our midst? Such a witness is already a silent proclamation of the Good News and a very powerful and effective one. Here we have an initial act of evangelization.
Nevertheless, the problem is that we often take this as the “Catholic way” and use this as an excuse not to open our mouths and talk about Jesus. We forget the second part of Pope Paul VI’s exhortation. There must be proclamation. If Christ our Lord lived the most perfect life and still had to use words, then what about us?
Pope Paul VI again:
Nevertheless this always remains insufficient, because even the finest witness will prove ineffective in the long run if it is not explained, justified — what Peter called always having “your answer ready for people who ask you the reason for the hope that you all have” — and made explicit by a clear and unequivocal proclamation of the Lord Jesus. The Good News proclaimed by the witness of life sooner or later has to be proclaimed by the word of life. 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.
How can we start? Here are some suggested concrete steps:
1. If Christ or His Church does not excite you, ask yourself why this is the case. Pray for grace and fervor to fall in Love with Him and His Church.
2. Familiarise yourself with very helpful Catholic evangelical tools on the internet. A good place to start is Word on Fire, by Bishop Robert Barron.
3. Put out into the deep. Pray daily: “Lord Jesus, help me to encounter You again; give me the chance to share the good news.” You will be surprised how many opportunities the Lord will open up.
Finally, remember the quote attributed to St. Francis of Assisi? That is a myth. He never said that. How could he, when the Lord he loved preached for three years?
While it is true that we should respect others, not be pushy, and be sensitive to our local context, it can never be an excuse not to proclaim.
Let us pray for the privilege to be able to share the Gospel of Jesus today.
We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making His appeal through us.
We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.
— 2 Corinthians 5:20
Preach the Gospel. Words are always necessary.
Image: Altarpiece — Sermon on the Mount, Henrik Olrik. Sankt Matthæus Kirke, Copenhagen /PD-US
Nick Chui is happily married and teaches history and Religious Education in a Catholic secondary school in Singapore. He has a Masters in Theological studies from the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family, Melbourne.