When was the last time you went out of your way to share good news with someone? Whether you let someone know that the Tigers won, a friend got engaged, you got a promotion at work, your favorite store was having a sale, or something else — what was the last announcement of goodness you made?
Have it in mind? OK. Good.
Well here’s a piece of good news for you: you already have the fundamentals of evangelization down. If you can share ordinary good news with someone, you can also share extraordinary good news with someone. Why is that good news, you ask? Well because all baptized Christians have been challenged to do just that: to be actively engaged in evangelization!
In Unleash The Gospel, Archbishop Vigneron reiterates what Pope Francis writes in Evangelii Gaudium, by reminding us that “Christ calls every priest, deacon, religious and lay person in the Archdiocese to embark upon the new evangelization” (Guidepost 5). We should mourn lost opportunities to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with our neighbors and, with St. Paul, we should all declare “Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” (1 Corinthians 9:16).
But it’s not that simple, is it? Dr. Marlon De La Torre joined Teresa Tomeo Ave Maria Radio, for his monthly segment, “No Bystanders!” to discuss how actually, evangelization in its essence is that simple and it can be carried out effectively by any disciple, if we stick to these fundamentals:
1. Don’t be intimidated by the term “evangelization”
You might be tempted to believe that “evangelization” isn’t something that applies to Catholics, especially not lay Catholics! Yet, evangelization was initiated by Jesus Christ, for all of his followers, when he established the Church.
In its simplest form, evangelization is defined as bringing the good news of Jesus Christ to those around us. This work doesn’t require a title, specific academic credentials, career choices or life experiences. All it requires is a disciple that’s willing to proclaim his or her story of how he or she came to know and love the Lord!
2. Let the Gospel move you to conversion
Have you been converted by the good news of Jesus Christ? Has your life changed because of who Jesus is and how he loves you? It’s very difficult to share good news that you haven’t been convinced of yourself. We have to start with our own conversion if we want to share the Gospel.
Most of us will probably have a couple of major conversion moments in our lives which will change our lives dramatically; but the work of evangelization also requires an ongoing relationship with Jesus, which leads to ongoing conversion. Your own relationship with Jesus has to be your number one priority if you’re going to invite others to the goodness of that relationship! How do you nurture that relationship and your ongoing conversion on a daily basis through prayer, Scripture and the sacraments?
3. Call sin sin … but be merciful
Letting someone know they’re acting sinfully isn’t comfortable or easy to do. Yet, we have to be honest about the reality of sin. The catechism mercifully informs us that, “Sin sets itself against God’s love for us and turns our hearts away from it” (CCC, 1850). Sin is a big deal, not because God is a hypersensitive being who just wants us to follow his rules! It’s a big deal because it turns our hearts away from the one thing they were created to be eternally united with: God’s love.
Now, you wouldn’t let a friend or loved one live with an obstacle between them and what’s best for them, would you? So why would you be dishonest with friends or loved ones about what’s sinful? This merciful honesty doesn’t mean you should go out and condemn people left and right. It requires an existing relationship built on trust, and is your opportunity to love like Jesus does: to call sin what it is, challenge the person to “sin no more” and assure them that your love for them has not and will not change — like every saint who’s gone before they can fall, but with Jesus’ mercy, they can get back up!
4. Create an environment of faith
The work of evangelization, especially in your home, requires intentional effort of building a space that continually points to Christ. This happens in very practical choices: having a sacred space in your home where you pray as a family, doing a regular examen together and making Sunday Mass the center of your family’s Sunday activities. It also requires making your home a sacred space where distortions and lies are corrected and clarified through listening, learning and teaching. You should actively work to clarify any ideas from the world that cause confusion or are not holy in order to make your home a place of flourishing.
5. Seize opportunities to share what Jesus has done for you!
As a disciple, Jesus has changed and will continue to change our lives as long as we live! Our relationship isn’t something to keep to ourselves, but it ought to be shared for the sake of the kingdom of God. Sharing how Jesus has changed our lives when the opportunities arise is perhaps the most compelling way to evangelize because nobody can discount the good news that we have experienced for ourselves. So woe to us if we do not preach that gospel!
Listen to all of Dr. Marlon De La Torre’s “No Bystanders!” segment here.