The Heart of Evangelization Must Beat in Us

There's an old joke that if you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything. As Christians we profess our faith in God and in the Church every time we stand to pray the Profession of Faith, or Creed, at Mass. We stand for something, but more importantly we stand for Someone. The Creed renews our baptism.

Jesus said, "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you . . ." (Mt. 28:19-20).

The Great Commission issued to the disciples of Jesus Christ has never been rescinded.

Our job as Christians is to profess that faith within the assembly gathered, receive Jesus in the Word and in the Eucharist, and then, go! We are commissioned every day to bring the message of the Gospel to the people and places we live. If we leave behind what we say we profess in the pew as we head for the exits, if we fail to share it, we profane what we believe.

Faith is not complete until we bring it to others. To be a Christian is to evangelize.

Every time we receive Jesus in the Eucharist he lavishes his love on us. We, in turn, are empowered to go and do the same—to lavish his love upon the world. It is a sacred responsibility, a call from the lover of our souls to respond out of love for Him with love of neighbor.

Since the dawn of the new millennium our popes and church leaders have called for a new evangelization—a proposing of the Gospel with a new ardor, new methods, and new technologies. New initiatives this year will include the Year of Faith, declared by Pope Benedict XVI to begin in October, corresponding with the bishops of the world being called together for a Synod on the subject of the new evangelization.

These global plans are great, and we should pray for their success, and participate in our local faith communities. Yet, the new evangelization is as much a personal experience as it is a corporate one.

The heart of the new evangelization is not the Year of Faith, or the forthcoming Synod, or the next great pope, or the next great book, or parish program, or even all new Catholic media on the internet or the broadcast bands or in film.

No. The heart of the new evangelization is an actual beating heart.

It is the heart of Jesus that burns with love for us.

And it is our hearts that yearn to be one with his.

The heart of the new evangelization is about a Person, the Person of Jesus Christ, and our encounter—our living encounter—with him.

Everything starts there, and everything must flow back there.

The kingdom of God is not a concept, a doctrine, or a program subject to free interpretation, but it is before all else a person with the face and name of Jesus of Nazareth, the image of the invisible God. (John Paul II, Redemptoris Missio, par. 18)

Jesus is at the heart of it all. Jesus is our path to union with the Triune God of our Creed. It is Jesus who forgives our sins, heals our ills, and calls us to holiness. To enter the Kingdom of God, there is only one way, through Jesus Christ.

I am the door, if anyone enters by me, he will be saved (Jn. 10:9).

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 aboutJesus; 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.