A Catholic apologetics magazine one time carried this anecdote: "What do you get when you cross a Jehovah's Witness with a Catholic? Someone who knocks on your door and says nothing!" The humor in this statement is muted by the truth it conveys, namely that Catholics in general tend to keep to themselves when it comes to sharing God's Word. But St. Paul tells us in his second letter to Timothy that "God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control. So do not be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord." Since we were baptized with the Holy Spirit at our Christening and were renewed in the power of the Spirit at our Confirmation, as members of Christ's Body we are each called to actively proclaim the Gospel. To evangelize means to witness to this Good News in a manner consistent with the gifts we have been given.
Consider the Apostles. Empowered by the Spirit at Pentecost, they could not refrain from spreading God's Word. For them it was a matter of witnessing to what they saw and heard, while imitating the life of Christ and joyfully expressing the message of the Gospel. For those today not comfortable engaging others in dialogue, witnessing is also accomplished when we perform corporal works of mercy, make the sign of the cross and pray at restaurant meals, or wear or otherwise display publicly a sign of our faith. We should be Catholic Christians because we sincerely believe the faith is true. This also means being comfortable with it under all circumstances, and if necessary, be willing to explain it in simple terms to others, especially our children.
Scripture instructs us to rejoice at all times. Unlike anger, frustration, and discontent, joy coupled with love is attractive. By continually criticizing our priests, the Mass, or our fellow parishioners, we can drive others away from the Church. If we complain about Church teaching, are indifferent toward Mass attendance, and dissent from Catholic morals, our negative and careless attitude will also tend to alienate others. But by actively participating in the Church and displaying a joyful spirit that characterized the early Christians, we can draw others closer to God, which is the object of evangelization.
Catholics need to remove their lamp from under a bushel basket and begin to imitate Jesus and once again become a light to the world. An insightful guideline attributed to St. Francis of Assisi can help: preach the Gospel all the time; if necessary, use words.
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