When we hear “evangelist,” we might think of someone on television
who passionately speaks about Jesus in front of a large crowd. Or
perhaps we think of someone standing on a street corner, holding a sign
that says “Repent” or “Jesus Saves” and tries to engage passers-by. We
might also think of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, the four evangelists
who authored the four Gospels.
But how often do we look in the mirror and think “evangelist?”
word evangelist comes from two Greek words meaning “good” and
“announce.” To evangelize means to announce the Good News. One of the
new dismissals for Mass gives the imperative “Go and announce the Gospel
of the Lord.” Each of us is tasked with being an evangelizer.
But how do we do this?
1. Recognize that before we evangelize, Jesus is the one who first evangelizes us.
In Luke’s Gospel, we read that while visiting His home town of
Nazareth, Jesus reads from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah that states
“the Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He has anointed me to bring
glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives
and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and
to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord” (Luke 4:16-19, Isaiah
61:1-2). Jesus is the divine evangelizer who proclaims to all of
humanity and to us individually that in Him we find salvation. At our
baptisms, the priest or deacon anointed our ears and mouth that we may
receive God’s word and proclaim it to the glory of God. Receptivity to
God’s word is the prerequisite for evangelization. Remember that the
disciples of Jesus spent three years with Him before heading out on
2. The Good News that we proclaim is more about a relationship than an ideology.
There is a difference between someone who comes to you to speak about
the beauty and merits of marriage and someone who runs up to you to tell
you about the person they have fallen in love with. The apostles of
Jesus first proclaimed Him; who Jesus is, what He says and does. From
this relationship flows Christianity, not vice-versa. Our first role in
evangelization is inviting people into a relationship, not a moral
ethos. Preaching the truth in love is a necessary part of evangelization
that we can’t shy away from, but a moral atheist isn’t saved by good
works. Salvation comes only through Jesus.
3. Evangelization demands encounter. Pope Francis reminds us that evangelization doesn’t mean that we just sit in church and pat each other on the back. We must encounter the poor, the sick and the marginalized just as Jesus did. We can’t expect people to just wander into
church. We have to be bold enough to go out and invite. Evangelization
is more about the personal invitations we extend to others than being
able to win arguments.
4. We can’t give what we do not have.
Ask yourself this question: Do you have Good News to share? Sometimes
we struggle to share the Gospel because we feel distant from God, or we
feel a sense of moral obligation rather than relationship. Do a prayer
exercise looking at all the good things that God has given to you — too
often we take for granted the gifts that surround us; life, faith,
family, friends, food, water, nature, music, beauty, etc. Recognize that
despite your own weaknesses and sins, you are loved beyond measure and
have a place in store that you can’t earn, but is freely given.
5. Remember that God will provide for you at every moment. None of us is really ever ready to be an evangelizer. But that’s OK.
Jesus says that He will give us the words necessary at the proper time.
So evangelization is more about cooperating with the work of Jesus than
a work of our own. By remaining faithful to Him in our daily lives and
having the courage to encounter people that He brings to us, then, by
what we say and do, we can be the light and the leaven in the world
Jesus desires us to be.