As Catholics we are all given opportunities to evangelize others. Sometimes God may place in our path a non-Christian who needs to hear the saving message of the gospel. Other times it may be the anti-Catholic who we encounter and have a chance to educate on what the Church actually teaches.
Then there are those moments when the person requiring evangelization is a fellow Catholic who, either through ignorance or disobedience, is in desperate need to hear the truth of the faith. These are the times which require courageous Catholics.
The Opportunity to Evangelize
Most of us have experienced these wonderful evangelization opportunities. Unfortunately, too many have been wasted opportunities as fear of offending others prevents us from sharing the truth. In what ways do these moments often manifest themselves in our routine, run of the mill, every day life?
Maybe it is a family member or Catholic friend who casually references that they rarely go to Mass anymore. Or you may have a Catholic friend who has been going to the Evangelical church lately because his non-Catholic wife and children enjoy the music better there. It might be a conversation with a family member in which they disclose that they are contracepting within their marriage, or possibly considering sterilization. Finally, you might find that you are the only Catholic in a small group when someone erroneously states that Catholics “do not believe in the Bible”.
In these instances far to many Catholics look for the quickest way to exit the conversation or to change the subject. This is the farthest thing from courageous Catholicism. Ultimately our responsibility to evangelize others, even our fellow Catholics, is motivated by charity and mercy.
The Spiritual Works of Mercy
The Church identifies the following actions as spiritual works of mercy :
•To instruct the ignorant
•To counsel the doubtful
•To admonish sinners
•To bear wrongs patiently
•To forgive offences willingly
•To comfort the afflicted
•To pray for the living and the dead
Evangelization is not optional. When God puts before us an opportunity to “instruct the ignorant” or “to admonish sinners”, we must rise up to the task. We must be bold in proclaiming the truth. It is because we are a people of hope that we cannot dismiss a soul as lost or simply choose not to engage in dialogue.
I have previously blogged on the New Evangelization and the Gospel of Nice. Prevalent these days, with both laity and clergy alike, is the belief that to offend someone, even with the truth, is the greatest “sin” one can commit.
Far to many Catholics presently see the entirety of the faith represented in two simple principles:
He who does not love does not know God; for God is love. (1 John 4:8)
Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye…
You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. (Mt 7:1-5)
This point of view therefore argues: “If God is love and if we shouldn’t judge then how do we dare challenge the beliefs, or admonish the behavior, of our Catholic brothers and sisters?” Afterall, who wants to be a self-righteous hypocrite?
Of course this is a complete misunderstanding of our responsibility and calling as Christians. While our Lord instructs us not to judge or condemn another person, Saint Paul clarifies:
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. (Col 3:16)
Be a Courageous Catholic!
I have been blessed these past six years with a very holy pastor at my parish. One constant refrain that we have continuously heard from Father over the years is, “Always speak the Truth, with charity.”
As we are called to practice the spiritual works of mercy, we cannot “opt out” of instructing the ignorant or admonishing the sinner who God has placed in our midst. As said before, it is uncharitable not to share with them the fullness of the truth that comes to us through the Catholic Church. As Saint Peter counsels:
Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you. (1 Peter 3:15)
Are you ready to defend to anyone you encounter the reason for your hope? Afterall, that is evangelization.
Are you ready to instruct a family member or friend in the truth so that they may have an opportunity to escape from a life of sin and to know our Lord, who came “that they may have life, and have it abundantly”? (John 10:10)
Be a courageous Catholic for our Lord and His Church!
As always, please share your comments with me and your fellow readers. God bless!