Fr. Paul MacNeil
Habit 6: Evangelization (7 Habits of Effective Catholics)
Habit 6: Evangelization
When I think of our 6th habit, evangelization, all I can think about is filling this Church. I want people to come here Sunday after Sunday and talk to their friends about what an incredible experience it is being here. Not because of me or our music or because of our incredible welcoming culture, but because of an encounter with Jesus Christ. And if we don’t grow our parish, we die, there are no two ways about it. And it is not up to me, it is not up to you, it is Jesus who causes this growth, because it is Jesus who brings join into our hearts when we follow him, it is Jesus who will touch our hearts with joy and peace.
And our world is in desperate need of the message of Christ. I was in shock this week, as I'm sure you were, when I read about the scandals rocking Hockey Canada. I’m sure for many families and many people involved in the beautiful sport of hockey everything is fine and there are no issues (I'm a goalie myself), but we must also acknowledge the possibility of a very disturbing culture of abusive behaviour particularly towards women. To make matters worse there seems to be a reluctance to take responsibility for this and to initiate change. As a Catholic Church we are not immune to these kinds of horrific problems, obviously. But let me be very clear: this kind of behaviour, both the abuse and the lack of willingness to change the culture, is not Christian, it is not the Gospel of Jesus Christ, it is not what our church teaches and not what we proclaim Sunday after Sunday. To those who are involved in these types of scandals, including clergy, coaches, parents, and to go to church on Sunday, I challenge you with all kindness and mercy, “what Gospel are you reading?” Are you reading the Gospel of the world which says we can just go along with whatever behaviour is out there, even if it hurts people? Or or we reading the Gospel of Jesus Christ which teaches us to love one another, to respect one another? All of us have sinned and come short of the expectations of God, and all of us need to be reading the right Gospel.
The world needs this Gospel. And this statement is the heart of evangelization. That's what evangelization is, to create a culture where peace abounds, where people are good to each other. Here’s one of my favourite songs, which expresses this sentiment wisely:
Grandpa, tell me 'bout the good old days
Sometimes it feels like this world's gone crazy
Grandpa, take me back to yesterday
When the line between right and wrong
Didn't seem so hazy
Did lovers really fall in love to stay
And stand beside each other, come what may?
Was a promise really something people kept
Not just something they would say
Did families really bow their heads to pray?
Did daddies really never go away?
Whoa, whoa, grandpa, tell me 'bout the good old days
When I read the papal encyclicals about evangelization, they talk about conversion, but not only individual conversion, but conversion of our whole culture, a return to a way of life where all people are treated with respect and dignity, where people were honest and where they put the needs of others ahead of their own. In other words, a culture that lives in alignment with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
I think as Catholics we get so worked up about making sure we interpret the scriptures according to catholic theology that we forget what the word of God actually says. My personal aim is to be a better Christian every day by reading those scriptures and changing my life. Our call to evangelize is a call to change the culture of the world.
It is, of course, Christ in us who does the work of evangelization, who fill sour hearts with joy. I close with one of my favourite quotations from Pope Francis:
“I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day. “No one is excluded from the joy brought by the Lord”. The Lord does not disappoint those who take this risk; whenever we take a step towards Jesus, we come to realize that he is already there, waiting for us with open arms. Now is the time to say to Jesus: “Lord, I have let myself be deceived; in a thousand ways I have shunned your love, yet here I am once more, to renew my covenant with you. I need you. Save me once again, Lord, take me once more into your redeeming embrace”.” (3)
I'm going to change that last line, this is not only for us as individuals, this is something for our whole culture. If we only had the courage to say this:, together: “Lord, we have let ourselves be deceived; in a thousand ways we have shunned your love, yet here we are once more, to renew our covenant with you. We need you, Save us once again, Lord, take us once more into your redeeming embrace.