How beautiful upon the mountains
are the feet of the one bringing good news,
announcing peace, bearing good news.
(Isaiah 52:7, NAB)
This weekend, the parish will launch “Catholics Reaching Out,” an opportunity for all of us to reach out to non-practicing or inactive Catholics in our families and among our friends, colleagues and neighbors. During today’s Mass, parishioners will watch a video and will be handed a bag of tools to aid their efforts.
For some of us, the word evangelization carries a negative connotation. It may bring thoughts of aggressive street preachers or Bible-thumpers who knock on doors. For Catholics, evangelization is the primary way we live out the call of our Baptism.
The word evangelization is related to the Latin word Evangelium which means good news and to the Greek word Euangelos which means good (eu) messenger (ángelos). To evangelize is to be a messenger of good news. As St. Paul VI said, the Church exists to evangelize.
“For the Church, evangelizing means bringing the Good News into all the strata of humanity, and through its influence transforming humanity from within and making it new: ‘Now I am making the whole of creation new.’ But there is no new humanity if there are not first of all new persons renewed by Baptism and by lives lived according to the Gospel. The purpose of evangelization is therefore precisely this interior change, and if it had to be expressed in one sentence the best way of stating it would be to say that the Church evangelizes when she seeks to convert, solely through the divine power of the message she proclaims, both the personal and collective consciences of people, the activities in which they engage, and the lives and concrete milieu which are theirs.” (St. Paul VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi, 18)
Conversion is at the core of evangelization.
“Conversion is the change of our lives that comes about through the power of the Holy Spirit. All who accept the Gospel undergo change as we continually put on the mind of Christ by rejecting sin and becoming more faithful disciples in his Church. Unless we undergo conversion, we have not truly accepted the Gospel.” (U.S. Bishops, Go and Make Disciples, 12)
This is conversion: to allow the Spirit of God to change us. To experience conversion is to turn more and more to the living God because we have come to know in a personal way God’s boundless love and mercy. Conversion may be a personal occurrence, but the fruits of conversion will be known by the way we live our lives in the world, as Carole Eipers, author of Who Me,
“If I see you handling problems and losses well, I may turn to you when I face these events. If you make decisions wisely, I may ask what influences your decisions. If you reach out to others selflessly and generously, I may wonder why you do this and inquire. If you are able to forgive hurts, show respect for people who have different views, and honor people’s dignity no matter what-- I want to know what grounds you.
“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.” (St. Paul VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi, 21)
Conversion is not a once and for all event. It is a lifetime process, a series of pivotal and essential moments that call us over and over back to God’s love. But here’s the good news, wherever we are in our journey, we are called to proclaim the Good News of God’s love. As Pope Francis says,
“The new evangelization calls for personal involvement on the part of each of the baptized. Every Christian is challenged, here and now, to be actively engaged in evangelization; indeed, 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, Evangelii Gaudium, 120)
What are we waiting for?