A Word in Season
The Heart of Evangelization Must Beat in Us
In John's Gospel we see the final discourse of Jesus—the prayers and instructions that He gave to his disciples on the night before he died. With heartfelt concern for his friends before him, and for the disciples that would come after then, Jesus prayed a prayer that cut to the heart of it all.
This is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent (Jn. 17:3).
A personal encounter with Jesus is at the heart of new the evangelization. Jesus leads us to know and understand all the parts of the Creed that we stand to profess week after week, by introducing us and bringing us into communion with the Father and the Spirit.
If Jesus is the Number One priority of the new evangelization, then a personal relationship with Jesus must be at the forefront of our own lives. You can't give what you don't have.
To be a musician, you must practice music. To be a baker you must bake. To be a writer you must write. To be a runner you must run. To be Christian, you must have Christ. To be a disciple, you must have the discipline to follow Jesus; you must answer the call to know him, to love him, and to serve him—including spreading that faith to others.
To be effective in the new evangelization, make sure you can articulate your own love story with Jesus. Make sure you don't just know about Jesus; make sure you are getting to know him personally day by day, year by year, through prayer, study, and the sacraments. Then your love will be the lifeblood of any service. When you are asked about what's important in your life, you will have a ready answer.
The great Apostle Peter tells us we must have an eager readiness to evangelize.
Always be prepared to make a defense to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence (1 Pet. 3:15).
St. Peter offers excellent advice for the communication of our faith. We do so in friendship, with gentleness and reverence.
Gentleness is another word for kindness and calmness. Approachability is key when we consider being a witness for Christ. Being approachable does not mean we have to water down the message. It means that our persona should not be shutting conversation off before we have a chance to speak. The new evangelization needs evangelizers to mindfully build relationships with people who might listen. We need be looking, always, for thoughtful ways to open new doors, and new hearts, to the gospel.
St. Peter's use of reverence contains more good counsel. We must reverence the word of God that we wish to share, so as to deliver it truthfully and joyfully. We must also reverence the recipients of our message, that we may speak the truth in love, with compassion and mercy. Our personal presence should radiate Christ present within us.
The heart of Jesus, who is the heart of the new evangelization, must beat in us. Echoing the teaching of St. Francis de Sales, Blessed John Henry Newman, evangelized with this motto, "Heart speaks to heart."
Bishop Fulton Sheen, the 20th-century media evangelist once observed, "From every human soul, Christ wants love and friendship."
Isn't that remarkable? We might only think about it otherwise, that every human soul desires the love and friendship of Jesus. But in actuality, Christ longs to know us and love us into his divine friendship. Recall Jesus' words: "You did not choose me, I chose you" (Jn. 15:16).
If you've never before considered your role as an evangelizer, Jesus and Fulton Sheen point to the place to start: Go, and become a friend of Christ. Welcome him and let him love you. It was, after all, Jesus who first came in search of you, to draw you to Himself.
It is for love of the Divine Friend, and only for his love, that we should be trying to evangelize in the first place.
Pat Gohn is a Catholic writer, speaker, and the host of the Among Women Podcast and blog. Her book Blessed, Beautiful and Bodacious: Celebrating the Gift of Catholic Womanhood is published by Ave Maria Press. Subscribe to “A Word in Season” via email or RSS.