My latest for Our Sunday Visitor:
Psssst. Want to be an evangelist? Here’s a secret you may not know:
You already are.
The fact is, you don’t have to be St. Paul, Pope Francis, Venerable Fulton Sheen or Bishop Robert Barron to be an effective spreader of the Gospel. You don’t need to be penning epistles from prison, preaching from Rome or broadcasting to the faithful on television or YouTube. You don’t even have to hold some advanced theological degree or have great rhetorical skills to stand before the world and proclaim the Good News.
You may be doing it right now and not even realize it. Evangelizing lies at the heart of who we are as baptized Christians — and, as a consequence — every choice we make, every word we speak, every action we undertake somehow reflects on who we are and what we believe.
We spend our days — in ways large and small — announcing the Gospel and proclaiming it.
For better or worse, we are evangelizing every day of our lives.
What? You didn’t realize that?
Pull up a chair. You need to hear this.
Pope St. Paul VI expressed this idea beautifully in his 1975 exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi (“Proclaiming the Gospel”): “Above all the Gospel must be proclaimed by witness. Take a Christian or a handful of Christians who, in the midst of their own community, show their capacity for understanding and acceptance, their sharing of life and destiny with other people, their solidarity with the efforts of all for whatever is noble and good. Let us suppose that they radiate in an altogether simple and unaffected way their faith in values that go beyond current values, and their hope in something that is not seen and that one would not dare to imagine. Through this wordless witness these Christians stir up irresistible questions in the hearts of those who see how they live: Why are they like this? Why do they live in this way? What or who is it that inspires them? Why are they in our midst? Such a witness is already a silent proclamation of the Good News and a very powerful and effective one” (No. 21).
Pope Francis explained our role in all this when he wrote in Evangelii Gaudium (“The Joy of the Gospel”), “Anyone who has truly experienced God’s saving love does not need much time or lengthy training to go out and proclaim that love” (No. 120).
“Anyone who has truly experienced God’s saving love does not need much time or lengthy training to go out and proclaim that love.” — Pope Francis
So how can we do that? Not all of us can climb on a soapbox on a street corner and proclaim to anyone who will listen, “Believe! Repent!” (Most of us, I think, tend to be on the shy side anyway; there’s a reason Catholics like to sit near the back when they go to Mass.) But every one of us can have an impact, and quite a few of us can change hearts, educate strangers and even redirect lives by simply going out into the world with an evangelizing spirit — a spirit that calls out with faith, hope and love to people too often overwhelmed by doubt, anxiety and fear.
And in fact, as I mentioned at the beginning, every one of us who has been baptized is already showing the world what we believe, whether we realize it or not.
But how well are we doing that? What is the Christianity we are sharing with others?
And how can we do it better?
Glad you asked.
With a nod to the evangelists Matthew, Mark, Luke and John — the original Fab Four — I’d like to offer four suggestions all of us can employ to make us better practitioners of evangelization. They aren’t difficult or time-consuming — and they may spark ideas of your own to add to them.
These all have one thing in common: They can help all of us show the world the joyful, merciful, hopeful face of Christ. That, in a nutshell, lies at the very heart of evangelization. That’s where it starts.
Check out my four suggestions right here.