(Also available in Electronic Book Format)
"God has created me to do Him some definite service; He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission." — Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman
I think most people associate evangelization with Fundamentalist Christians and pseudo-Christian groups such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses. But according to the teaching of Vatican II, it is the main duty of Catholic men and women to ‘‘bear witness to Christ’’ in our lives and in our works. In our home, on the job, in our social group or professional circle, we must show forth ‘‘the new man created according to God in justice and true holiness’’. The Gospel of Jesus Christ must be proclaimed by what we say and do. This is evangelization.
Now, I did not make this up. This is the official teaching of the Second Vatican Council. But if you are like 99 percent of Catholics, you have probably never read the documents of Vatican II. That is why I am ‘‘preaching to the choir’’ in this book—because, in plain language, lay Catholics need to know that we are on the earth precisely to sanctify secular society. We have a duty to give our family, our friends, and our neighbors—and that means everybody—the Good News of Jesus Christ.
In the 1960s Pope Paul VI taught that the ‘‘pressing need to evangelize the multitudes’’ through mass media is no excuse to abandon one-on-one evangelization. Our gift of faith is an inheritance from God that is meant to be shared with a lost and hurting society. But the late pontiff also reminds us that one-on-one evangelization is never an ‘‘isolated act’’ because evangelization is a ‘‘deeply ecclesial’’ activity. Therefore individual Catholic communities have the task of learning the essence of the Gospel message and sharing it. What Pope Paul VI was telling us is that there is no place for ‘‘Lone Ranger-ism’’ in the work of evangelization. Simply put, ‘‘Jesus and me’’ Christianity is absolutely alien to Holy Scripture and Sacred Tradition. As lay Catholics—even when we evangelize as individuals—we really evangelize through, with, and in the Church.
Evangelization is a mandate for all the lay faithful, but it must take place in communion with our pastors—the priests and bishops Jesus gives to His Church—and with the Magisterium (the Church’s official teaching office of the Pope and the bishops under him). Likewise, the growth of the Church is the ‘‘consolation of the Holy Spirit’’. The Holy Spirit is the ‘‘soul of the Church’’ and the main source of all Catholic ministry.
There is a profound link between Christ, the Church, and evangelization. It is vital that your local parish reflect and express true unity with Holy Mother Church, because the more your local church is attached to the universal Church—especially in being faithful to theMagisterium—the ‘‘more it will be truly evangelizing’’. Union between the local Church and the universal Church is essential because all Catholic Christians need to be on the same page; centered on the Holy Eucharist, devoted to Mary, faithful to our Holy Father, the Pope, and sharing the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Faith.
Light from the Word
Evangelization is a duty:
‘Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel’’ (1 Cor 9:16).
‘‘Do not be afraid; just have faith’’ (Mk 5:36).
Evangelization must be done ‘‘through and with’’ the Church:
"You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light’’ (1 Pet 2:9, RSV).
‘‘To bring to light [for all] what is the plan of the mystery hidden from ages past in God . . . so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church’’ (Eph 3:9–10).
Union with priests and bishops is crucial:
‘‘Obey your leaders and submit to them; for they are keeping watch over your souls, as men who will have to give account’’ (Heb 13:17, RSV).