Q: Where I work, there are a number of former and nonpracticing Catholics as well as some who grew up with no connection to organized religion. As an active and faithful Catholic, how can I best share my faith with them and others? How can I be a better witness and evangelist of my Catholic faith?
A: Thank you for your excellent question! Most if not all of us find ourselves in the company of former Catholics and those with no ties to organized religion who can be hostile or indifferent to the Catholic faith. It seems the easiest thing to do in these situations is to keep silent in order to keep the peace. But is this really for the best, or is our Lord perhaps inviting us to consider making a bit more noise?
To begin, we should reflect for a moment on our baptisms. After we were baptized, the priest anointed the crown of our heads with the sacred chrism oil. While doing so, he said these words: “As Christ was anointed Priest, Prophet, and King, so may you live always as a member of his body, sharing everlasting life.” That is to say, through our baptisms, each of us was anointed, like Jesus, to participate in his kingly, priestly and prophetic ministry. Let’s focus on the prophetic dimension.
A prophet is someone who speaks the will of God to others. In the Old Testament, a prophet was an instrument used by God to bring and keep the covenanted people in a right relationship with God. Jesus was also sent to do this, and through our baptisms, we are sent as well; as Christ’s body, all of us are called to be evangelizers.
St. Peter reminds us of this evangelizing responsibility of all of Christ’s body: “But you are a ‘chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people of his own, so that you may announce the praises’ of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2:9)
The Second Vatican Council taught us this as well. Jesus fulfills his prophetic office “not only through the hierarchy, who teach in his name and with his authority, but also through the laity, whom he made his witnesses and to whom he gave understanding of the faith … so that the power of the Gospel might shine forth in their daily social and family life.” (Lumen Gentium 35) The council fathers saw the evangelizing role of the laity as something passed on to them directly by Jesus through baptism and confirmation.
And Pope Francis has written, “In virtue of their baptism, all the members of the People of God have become missionary disciples. All the baptized, whatever their position in the Church or their level of instruction in the faith, are agents of evangelization.” (Evangelii Gaudium 120)
Called to evangelize
There is no doubt that we are all called to evangelize people and the culture around us, and that there are many ways to evangelize co-workers and others. I think the best way to evangelize others is to be sure that we ourselves have been evangelized. We have to know the Lord before we can invite others into that same relationship.
Some of the practical spiritual practices for accomplishing this “self-evangelization” are faithfully attending Mass on a weekly basis, daily prayer and Scripture reflection, spiritual reading and service to others through involvement with the parish or wider community.
In 2012, the synod of bishops released an important document entitled The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith. In it, the bishops made this point: “This task [of evangelizing] invites us to live life with the gentle power which comes from our identity as children of God, from our union with Christ in the Spirit … and with the determination of someone who knows that the goal of all living is an encounter with God the Father in his Kingdom.” (119)
If we really know the Lord, the joy that this relationship creates in us will naturally flow out into the lives of those around us. We will inherently look for ways to evangelize — through social media, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, through conversations at appropriate and opportune times… the list is endless. This is how our faith was spread by the first Christian communities, through personal encounters and friendships, one person at a time.
May God’s blessings be with you today and always!
Northwest Catholic - January/February 2015