Evangelization: A simple matter of and talking the talk and walking the walk
In these weeks of Easter, we follow the fascinating growth of the early Church through the Acts of the Apostles. Following the Scripture readings each week, I am always amazed how our Church spread – the result of the work of one man, our Jesus, and a ragtag group of fishermen. Today, according to the Pew Research Center, there are 2.18 billion Christians in the world. That’s nearly one-third of the entire population.
How amazing is that? That, without doubt, is the quintessential example of evangelization!
We read about those early disciples and think how brave they must have been; how extraordinary in courage, character and belief to accomplish what they did. But here’s the thing. They were just ordinary men – people like you and me – before they were touched by the love of Christ.
None were great scholars with strings of degrees behind their names. I don’t recall that any were immensely rich. Did a single one hold a position of high power? Nope. The early disciples were no different than you, than me…except that they opened their hearts and allowed the Holy Spirit to work within them to encourage, to inspire as they went out into the world to proudly proclaim the faith they had found in Jesus.
They were so pumped by their belief in the Son of God that they couldn’t help but want to share that Good News with others.
So what does that have to do with us and evangelization? If we read Bishop Hying’s column on the subject on page five in today’s paper (one of the eight topics for reflection and discussion during our upcoming synod), we learn that in today’s world, we need to evangelize more than ever. We need to share our faith with others, not with “sour pusses,” as Pope Francis once suggested, but with the joy we feel knowing how much God loves us…such extraordinary joy and love that it spills out of us onto others.
What does that mean? I’m not going to go knocking on doors, you might be thinking.
Even though some of our parishes have teams that do just that, evangelization can begin at a much more basic and simple level.
Do we show our love for God by actively participating in Mass on Sunday? Jesus is present and angels fill the church. Do our prayer and worship reflect a lively spirituality or a limp soul that just exists?
When we’re outside of church – with family, friends, co-workers, neighbors – do our actions give witness to our faith, what it means to be a Christian? Are our words kind, our thoughts and deeds compassionate, as Jesus would ask us to be? Or, are we critical, nasty and indifferent to others? Are we inclusive or exclusive?
This one can be hard… Do we love with a generosity of spirit or do we hoard our love, passing it out with stinginess to only a select few? In this weekend’s Gospel (Jn 13:31-33a, 34-35), Jesus gives us a new commandment: love one another. Jesus didn’t hoard his love but rather offered it to all who would embrace it. His words weren’t empty. His actions proved that.
Jesus didn’t stand on top of the highest mountain and shout his message to the world. He didn’t have a prime time slot on the major networks. He never paid his front people to go out and conjure up faux crowds. Jesus walked the talk and that had an effect on the people – the disciples – around him.
The disciples went out and spoke of this Jesus who so loved the world that he died on the cross and rose again for our salvation. They went out, unashamed, into the world and lived their faith. Christianity grew exponentially.
We have the power to do the same – to evangelize – simply by talking the talk and walking the walk of our faith.
“This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”