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3 Reasons Catholics Don’t Evangelize

June 2, 2015

Close-up of Priest collar

This week, I received a good reminder.

It’s not something I should need to be reminded about, but it’s something I forget nonetheless.

The reminder came in the form of a homily posted online from Fr. Michael Schmitz entitled, “Make Disciples – What’s the Point of Church?” It was reflection upon the “great commission” at the end of Matthew’s gospel, in which Jesus commanded his apostles to “go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

As a church, Fr. Mike reminded me, our success or failure can be judged squarely on this one qualification – are we making disciples?  As individuals we face the same measure of success or failure – are we making disciples with our lives?

There’s an entire post I could write here about how we often see disciple-making as a role for “the church” – by which we mean the priests and staff on the payroll.  And this is exactly where we fail, by thinking even for a moment that “the church” means anything other than you, me and all of us working together to progress the Kingdom of God on earth.  We tend to embody a “that’s not MY job” kind of attitude when it comes to disciple-making.  “After all,” we think, “isn’t that what RCIA is for?”

By my estimation, there are a couple of reasons why we Catholics are so quick to shirk our responsibilities in this arena.

We feel woefully unprepared.  
Let’s be honest, Catholic Christianity is kind of a hard to explain in all its grandeur.  When I was a minister in the Baptist tradition, we had the sharing Jesus thing down pretty well.We’re all sinners who stand in need of God’s grace.  

Jesus, God incarnate, came to earth to walk among us and, ultimately, dispense God’s grace by giving his life on the cross.  The good news (or Gospel) of Jesus Christ is that he didn’t stay dead, he rose again to conquer death. You and I now access eternal life through his victory.

Here’s some more good news for Catholics.  Those few sentences make up the foundational “value proposition” for Catholics as well.  Sure, there are other doctrinal issues of importance but, until or unless someone accepts these foundational truths, the Holy Spirit can’t begin to move in their minds and hearts towards other truths.

There is a lot of emphasis on apologetics in the American Catholic Church.  And, yes, it’s important to help people understand why we believe what we believe as Catholics.  However, there is a whole world filled with people around us who don’t know or understand the basic need they have of Christ (I’ll bet you even know a few).  There are people everywhere who simply need to be loved and told they have value.Rather than hiding from the world because we don’t feel equipped to answer every objection, let’s take the foundational truth of the gospel of Christ into the world around us.

We’re afraid of being hypocritical.
It’s easy to hide from our responsibilities as disciple makers by maintaining that we simply aren’t good enough to do so.  “I don’t have it all together,” we say to ourselves, “so how can I possibly tell other people they need to be religious?”The truth of this matter should point us back to point number one.  None of us is really “good enough” to share the gospel.  None of us really even has it all together.  But as sharers of Jesus’s goodness, we’re up to the task.

You see, the heart of evangelism is not moral perfection.  The heart of discipleship is joy.  Joy, that while we stand in desperate need of God’s grace, we are recipients of that grace in Christ.  St. Paul put it this way, “while we were still sinners Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).  This is cause for unspeakable joy.  This brings me to my final point.

We’re disconnected from the joy of the gospel. 
We’ve forgotten how badly we need Christ and how grateful we are to have him.Throughout the Gospels we see numerous accounts of men and women who share an experience with Christ and are immediately sent on mission.

Think of the woman at the well in the Gospel of John who ran into town and proclaimed, “I met a man who told me everything I had ever done (John 4).   Call to mind the blind man who Jesus heals.  Even when Jesus tells him not to share his experience with anyone, he can’t help doing so.

As Catholics, we claim to have a unique experience with Christ, receiving him in the true presence of his body, blood, soul and divinity in the Eucharist.  We have no shortage of experience with Jesus and, as such, we should have no shortage of joy!  Of all the people on Earth living in 2015 we, then, ought to be overflowing with joy and sharing the gospel with those around us.

At every Mass the laity are urged, “go and proclaim the gospel of the Lord!”  Every experience we have of Christ in the Eucharist circles us back to the very commandment that Jesus gave his his disciples before ascending into heaven.

Therefore, let us go out to the world around us and share the good news of Jesus Christ to all.  Let us radiate our experiences with him in love.  Let us BE the gospel, while at the same time sharing the gospel with others.

Over the next several weeks, I’m going to explore what it means for Catholics (well, all Christians, really) to be people joyfully sharing the gospel.  Pope Benedict and his predecessor talked a lot about what it means to be living out a “new” or renewed evangelism.  We’ll be taking glimpses at scenes throughout the life of Christ, finding out what they meant in terms of the first evangelization of the world, and what they might be for us in the “new evangelization.”

One Comment leave one →
  1. Marti Burns permalink
    June 15, 2015 11:06 am

    After just spending a week at a “Christian” religious art conference I can tell you that Catholics and Protestants have the same ultimate goal…but we DO NOT speak the same language. Continued prejudice against Catholics has kept us to keep our spiritual beliefs mostly to ourselves. Many Protestants don’t even think we are Christians! ( I find this totally Amazing!) I actually appreciate that we wait until the proper time and setting to “evangelize”. Someone approaching me when I’m eating lunch to ” give me their witness” or ask me to tell them ” when I was saved story” just reminds me how much I love being Catholic! Hopefully, we lead by example…and don’t have to constantly shove it in someone’s face .

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