Evangelization at its Finest, From Curiosity to Conversion

Evangelization at its Finest, From Curiosity to Conversion March 8, 2024

When we see Jesus spend an entire night with Nicodemus, we remember that he calls us to evangelization. Nicodemus came to Jesus because he was intrigued, and Jesus found the right words for the evangelization of this honored member of the Sanhedrin. How ready are you to help someone come into the fullness of the faith? Are you able to move someone from curiosity to conversion?

Melissa came into the faith because of a camping trip with a friend in 2007. She had grown up in the Protestant Church of Christ and was no longer practicing any religion. Melissa never found her home in any of these religions. By the time she was a young woman, she felt lost and spiritually homeless. That changed she went on that camping trip when she was 23, she was ready for a change. Sometimes, all it takes is one night.

Our conversion begins with evangelization
Our conversion begins with evangelization | Courtesy Pexels.com

One Night of Learning

Nicodemus spent one night learning from Jesus and it changed the entire course of his life. He came to him at night because he did not want to reveal his interest in the preacher from Galilee to his fellow members of the Sanhedrin. Jesus told him about one of the central beliefs of Christianity: the importance of baptism. Unless we are born again in water and the Spirit, we cannot enter the Kingdom of God.

If you had one night to share the news of Jesus Christ with somebody, how would you do it? What are the key points that you would emphasize? In catechetical circles, we refer to this short form of the Gospel as the “kerygma.” Pope Benedict described the kerygma as “the central, explosive proclamation of faith.” Paul gives us an example of his version of the kerygma in the passage from the Letter to the Ephesians that we read today.

Paul’s Evangelization

Paul gives his summary of salvation in the letter to the Ephesians that we read today.

God, who is rich in mercy,
because of the great love he had for us,
even when we were dead in our transgressions,
brought us to life with Christ — by grace you have been saved —,
raised us up with him,
and seated us with him in the heavens in Christ Jesus,
that in the ages to come
He might show the immeasurable riches of his grace
in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.
For by grace you have been saved through faith,
and this is not from you; it is the gift of God;
it is not from works, so no one may boast.
For we are his handiwork, created in Christ Jesus for the good works
that God has prepared in advance,
that we should live in them. (Eph. 2:4-10)

Paul speaks about God’s great love for us. He mentions our death through sin. Paul encourages us with his mention of the “immeasurable riches of grace.”

We formulate the content of the kerygma in different ways, and I encourage you to look at a few different formulations to find the one you want to proclaim. A little bit ago, I heard an atheist comedian talking about Christians. He gave a beautiful testimony, mentioning how one of his fans came up after a show and gave him a Bible: “I could see that he was really authentic; it touched me deeply.”

He made a thought experiment: if Christians believe that their faith will get people to Heaven, of course they should be evangelizing. If you are at a street corner and see somebody confused or distracted and about to slip off the curb into traffic, you shout out or even pull them back. How badly do you have to hate somebody to not warn them about the impending danger? The comedian applied the same logic to Christianity and concluded that it makes total sense for Christians to evangelize.

Stages of Evangelization

To get this into the proper context, it might be good to think about the stages of evangelization:

1 – Pre-evangelization = relationship building where we earn the right to proclaim the kerygma.
2 – Evangelization = the explicit proclamation of the kerygma, and invitation to respond, and the initial conversion of the one who is the subject of our evangelization.
3 – Discipleship = post-conversion following of Jesus. This includes catechesis, growth in prayer, maturity in virtue, and mission/service to others (Marcel LeJeune, “The Content of the Kerygma – Good News for the World”).

Brief Presentation of the Kerygma

As mentioned before, there are different formulations of the kerygma. For the sake of brevity, I will share a four-point kerygma.

  1. God has a loving plan for humanity.
  2. Sin entered the world and drove a wedge between God and humanity.
  3. God answered by sending his Son into the world (Jn. 3:16; in today’s Gospel).
  4. Each person is called to respond to this grace by repenting, believing in Jesus, and accepting Baptism.

Melissa’s friend was able to share effectively the Gospel with her. Was it as ordered and neat as this four-point formulation of the kerygma? Probably not, but it did the job in capturing her interest enough to pursue RCIA. Her friend helped her move from curiosity to conversion.

Spend time in front of the Blessed Sacrament until his presence convicts you with the truth of the kerygma. You will only be able to share the Gospel with others if you are convinced of it yourself. While in adoration, think of those closest to you and see where you are in your evangelization of each person. If you are at a stage of pre-evangelization, seeking discipleship may move you backwards instead of forwards. The purpose of this analysis is not to be judgmental but to see how you can be a better witness to Jesus in their lives. Jesus gives us a tremendous example in this Gospel of evangelization and calls us to do likewise.

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him might not perish
but might have eternal life. (Jn. 3:16)

This is the great news we are called to share.

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About Fr. Nicholas Sheehy, LC
Fr. Nicholas Sheehy was ordained a Catholic priest in 2013 for the Legionaries of Christ. He has been involved in youth work including missions, retreats and apostolic outreach in Germany, Italy, the United States and Central America. He is passionate about the New Evangelization and formation for young adults and married couples. He is a spiritual director and retreat director, offering marriage preparation and marriage counseling through the Divine Mercy Clinic and Family Center. He is currently Executive Director and Chaplain of the Newman Center at St. Philip the Apostle Parish in Pasadena, California. You can read more about the author here.
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