27 May 2011

Evangelisation. A big and scary word… for some… (Part 1)

I was once told that teenagers get totally put off by the word evangelisation. And I agree. Just a year ago, I considered ‘evangelisation’ to be totally uncool, seriously hardcore, and most definitely not for me. I stayed away from it. To be honest with you, I didn’t even know what it was – but I in my self-conscious social mind felt that evangelisation wasn’t cool. I even found people who associated with evangelisation to be on some next level that wasn’t culturally or socially ‘in’; and they weren’t my idea of ‘fun’ – partly because I just didn’t feel what they felt.

But back then, I was a young woman seeking love and happiness through the ways of this world. I was über conformed to this world. In fact, I was giving so much of myself (despite not really knowing myself back then) in the wrong places, in the wrong way, and to the wrong people… just to earn their satisfaction, which in turn satisfied me. Ultimately, my love and motives were selfish, and this is because I didn’t realise what real love was back then. Often, what I thought was the right thing, ended up being the wrong thing – and for some situations, it has taken me many months to seek healing and reconciliation for leading people away from God in my own ignorance. My concupiscence was a natural inheritance from Adam’s fall, which I did not yet understand, and therefore could not fully grasp. I lacked three of the most amazing gifts of the Holy Spirit: Wisdom, understanding and knowledge, and therefore I wasn’t aware of this concupiscence (the natural inclination to desire the wrong things; whether consciously or sub-consciously) happening in my life.

So when God came into my life in an amazingly dramatic and awesome experience whilst walking El Camino (the road to Santiago), I was brought to ecstacy by the power and fullness of God’s Love for me – the same Love God has for every single soul He ever created and will ever create (and here I talk in terms of human time, as there is no time dimension in God’s realm). In that present moment, I was basking in the experience of what it means to be alive, and to be so Loved by my Father who created me. I was flooded to overflowing with His light, peace, joy, goodness, and infinite Love. From that point on, my life completely changed. Not long after, maybe about 1-2 hours after, whilst still glorifying God in amazement of what I had just experienced, I felt Him plant in my heart a seed for youth evangelisation (other things happened after this, but that is aside from my focus of this blogpost on evangelisation). And strangely enough, I was not afraid. I wanted this, because it was where God was leading me. I had said to God earlier on El Camino, “God, I am Yours to do with me whatever You will. Guide me where You want me to go. Here I am. Take me.” A seed of God was sown in my heart through the Holy Spirit. I invite you to read Mark 4:3-9. Ponder it and pray over it at some point today.

There began my mission, a seed which is constantly being fed and nourished by the Holy Spirit. But that seed for evangelisation had to start from the beginning, because I seriously had no clue…

What IS evangelisation? What exactly should I be evangelising? Why do I need to evangelise? How on earth do I do something, which until this point, I was utterly put-off by? To be honest, what I say or think or feel doesn’t matter… but it does matter to every soul what God says through me. So just a quick prayer that the Holy Spirit speaks through me here.

What is Evangelisation?
Pope Paul VI wrote something called EVANGELII NUNTIANDI (meaning On Evangelization in the Modern World) which the American Bishops (USCCB) have done a great job of summarising evangelisation as: “bringing the Good News of Jesus into every human situation and seeking to convert individuals and society by the divine power of the Gospel itself.6“

Woooah… those are pretty big words and even bigger concepts there! In simpler terms, Evangelisation means to share with other people this most awesome gift of faith that God has graced you with, because you CARE for every single person you encounter! Your faith-sharing could very well lead the people you share your faith with to think more about God, and bring them to believe the same thing as you. For example (and this is just an example… I’m not comparing the two), you have recently noticed that a friend is looking fitter, healthier, more confident and definitely looks happier. You tell your friend that they are looking really good! Your friend replies back that they started hitting the local gym and attends an amazing tae kwondo class that has given them this new look! What do you do? You probably hit the net when you get home, find out how much a membership is going to cost to attend these classes, and then research tae kwon do on google and start speaking to lots of people who know about it. Evangelisation is the same sort of thing, but in a faith context. The example in context: a) you don’t necessarily look fitter, healthier, more confident or happier, but your soul certainly IS all those things. b) the local gym is your local Church, prayer group, charity activity, faith-based youth club, or retreat experience (among other things). c) the tae kwon do class is an encounter with Jesus. If this example was put into practice, you will have shared a variety of keywords like ‘Jesus’, ‘Church’, ‘happy’, and ‘fun’ with someone who might not know anything about God, or the Catholic faith.

A ‘conversion’ is a journey (or a spiritual pilgrimage as I like to call it) whereby someone comes into a closer union with God in mind and heart (together, the soul). According to Pope Benedict XVI in Lent 2008, he said that “to be converted” means “seeking God, moving with God, docilely following the teachings of his Son, Jesus Christ”. He also makes it clear that we aren’t the masters of our own conversion… which is true! Conversion is the mastery of the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit uses ordinary people and simple everyday events to bring someone to conversion. This doesn’t have to be a dramatic event like it was for me, but could be something that occurs over a much longer period of time. After all, it is a journey.

If you can say to yourself that you have a true and personal relationship with Jesus, that you have invited Him into your soul freely and lovingly, and that you believe in who Jesus is to you, then you already have a great foundation for bringing the Gospel message to others and the potential to abandon all that to the Holy Spirit to bring about a conversion through you. This is what you call an Evangeliser.

Challenge: “How dare you tell individuals and society they’re wrong, when your Church has done so much worse! Who the hell do you think you are?!”
St. Paul (a great inspiration of mine) recognised and documented well the hardships that come with Evangelising. The world is set against you. You are seen as the enemy. In some cases you are completely deluded and need to get a life/grow up. That’s genuinely what people will think of you. So we ask the question: “Why do we need to evangelise… especially when it might anger or upset people?”

Pope John Paul II said “For the disciple of Christ the duty to evangelise is an obligation of love”. We were created for love. We do not purposefully intend to hurt, anger or upset anyone… most especially if we are trying to accomplish works for God’s Kingdom. If the intention is to hurt, then that is something we must bring to Confession to seek forgiveness for. As Catholics, we believe that the only way we can go to heaven is by the grace of God, through the admission of our Lord Jesus Christ; for he said “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one can come to the Father except through me”. He didn’t joke about when He said “Take this all of you and eat it” (Luke 22:19), which is what we hear and open our hearts to every week at Mass neither! The Sacraments help us to grow in holiness, because we receive Jesus in all Sacraments, and they help to lead us to heaven. Jesus also said “You must love one another as I have loved you” [John 13:34-35]. How did He love us? By sacrificing Himself for us in order to recognise and accept God’s Love, and by ensuring that after His resurrection when He went back to the Father, He had a team of evangelisers ready to share the Good News of the Kingdom of God with the blessing of the Holy Spirit given at Pentecost.

**end of part 1** 
Part 2 contnues on the question of ‘why evangelise?’ and looks at some examples of great evangelical saints :)

Thank you Lord Jesus for coming to my life so that I may share your Light and Love with others who might also be looking for deep answers to questions of living witness to their faith in this everyday world.

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