Sunday, February 19, 2012

Being Evangelists

Readings for Sunday, February 19: 
Isaiah 43:18-19,21-22,24-25
Psalm 41:2-5,13-14
2 Corinthians 1:18-22
Mark 2:1-12

If you follow the addresses and writings of the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, you will likely have noticed that he is constantly addressing the need for a New Evangelization of the world – to let the world know the Gospel message of Jesus Christ. The interesting thing is that this message of a need to evangelize our world is not limited to just cardinals, bishops and priests. Rather, this seems to be the message he speaks to every person he meets, everywhere he goes, because evangelizing the world isn’t something that priests or bishops do. It’s something everyone does. When Christ gave His last commandment to go out to all the nations, teaching them all that He had commanded, it was a commission given to the Church, not just the disciples. It is our task – yours and mine personally – to bring others to know Jesus Christ and His teachings.

In our Gospel today we have a beautiful story of a paralytic being brought to the Lord by four men. These men are the embodiment of what we ought to be doing in the midst of the world. There are many poor and broken souls in the world around us – at home, at school, at work – and they simply need someone to bring them to Christ that they might be healed. But this doesn’t happen unless we ourselves first have faith that Christ can and will heal them. The men in the story bring this paralytic to the home of Jesus, tear open his roof, and then lower him down at Jesus’ feet. These aren’t the actions of guys who thought Jesus might do something with the guy. They are the actions of men who had seen or even personally experienced the healing power of Christ and knew that if Christ willed it, the paralytic would walk home that day. Their own personal knowledge of the Lord gave them faith to bring the paralytic to Him. They were evangelized and then went to evangelize.

We sometimes think that to be a good Catholic we just have to come to Mass on Sundays, avoid mortal sin and live a decent life and that’s good enough. But the problem is that we can do all of those things and never actually encounter Jesus Christ. My brothers and sisters, we’re not called to be good enough. We’re called to be saints. And saints are men and women whose lives have been touched by Jesus Christ and radiate the Lord’s presence. Sadly, there are many in the world and in our Church who have not really been evangelized.

We can see it in the fact that less than 30% of Catholics attend Mass regularly and many of those leave Mass early because it seems that they have more important things than to stay after Holy Communion and give thanks to God for the gift they’re received. We can see it in the number of Catholics who claim to follow Jesus but do not believe His teachings – especially on key doctrines such as the Real Presence in the Eucharist, the need for the Sacrament of Confession, the immorality of contraception and abortion, and the reality of marriage being the union of one man and one woman. If we ourselves are not faithful; if we ourselves are not in love with Jesus Christ and His Church, trusting in their power at work in the world – how can we expect others to join us?

To evangelize, we must first be evangelized ourselves. The season of Lent is a special time each year where the Lord has much grace stored up for us, waiting and hoping that we will ask Him to pour it out on us. Why not let Him do so? Let Him strengthen us in our faith. We have Masses each morning and at noon throughout Lent, and have adoration on Wednesdays. Come experience Him in the Eucharist. We have Confession available on Saturdays as well as every Wednesday night of Lent. Come experience His mercy in Reconciliation. We have numerous faith-sharing programs. Come and experience Him in the Scriptures and teachings of the Church. If you can’t make these programs, pick up your Bible and pray. Find a good Catholic book and read it. Find a meditation book and spend a few moments each morning with the Lord.

And as we go through Lent, why not make a special effort to speak to others about your faith? We have tons of opportunities from the ashes we receive to the fasting we do, but why not try other ways such as making the Sign of the Cross and praying before meals, talk about the faith in conversations, inviting someone to Mass each weekend, or sharing faith experiences or quotes on Facebook or Twitter. These are just a few things that we can do that will permit us to speak about the faith and Jesus Christ to others. Let us not miss these moments of grace.

And if you haven’t heard one word of the homily, I ask you to listen keenly now to words of our Holy Father, Pope Benedict:

Dear friends, being evangelizers is not a privilege but a commitment that comes from faith. To the question the Lord addresses to Christians: “Whom shall I send and who will go for us?” answer with the same courage and the same trust as the Prophet: “Here am I! Send me” (Is 6:8). I ask you to let yourselves be formed by God’s grace and to respond in docility to the action of the Spirit of the Risen One. Be signs of hope, able to look to the future with the certainty that comes from the Lord Jesus, who conquered death and gave us eternal life. Communicate the joy of faith to all with the enthusiasm that comes from being driven by the Holy Spirit, because he makes all things new (see Rv 21:5), trusting in the promise that Jesus made to the Church: “and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Mt 28:20).  

For further edification: Catholic Guide to Spiritual Makeover