There's an old joke that talks about the angels questioning Jesus about the worldwide evangelization plan after his return to heaven following the Ascension:
Angel: So, Jesus, you've just returned to heaven as the victorious Lord of Glory, King of Heaven and Earth, what's your plan for spreading the news of salvation to the whole world?
Jesus: Well, you see those folks down there on earth—Peter, James, John, and the rest of my disciples?
Angel: Yes . . .
Jesus: I told them to tell everyone.
Angel: That's the plan?
Jesus: That's it.
As it was then, so it is now. The plan for evangelization still resides with us, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
And all of us who are baptized into the Church, have been baptized into the Church's mission, which is our mission too. The call to be evangelizers is at once corporate and personal. Some are called to bring the news of salvation to foreign lands. Most are called to bring it to our next-door neighbor—or, to our next Facebook status.
We'll soon be hearing more about "the new evangelization"; as 2012 moves along, there are big plans afoot. Deliberate steps are being taken by the Church's leadership to prepare us in renewing this primary call. Two initiatives worth mentioning are the Year of Faith and the Synod.
Proposed by Pope Benedict XVI last October, the Year of Faith coincides with the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council. It will begin October 11, 2012, and run until November 24, 2013, the Solemnity of Christ the King. Its purpose, the pope said, is to give "new impetus to the mission of the whole Church to lead men out of the desert in which they often find themselves, to the place of life, of friendship with Christ."
Simultaneous with the Year of Faith, the pope has called for a gathering of the world's bishops for an October 2012 Synod on the theme: "The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith."
Ever since the Second Vatican Council, the new evangelization has increasingly presented itself as an appropriate, timely tool in addressing the challenges of a rapidly-changing world, and the way to respond to God's generosity in our being gathered together by the Holy Spirit to experience God as the Father of us all and to bear witness and proclaim to all the Good News—the Gospel—of Jesus Christ. (Lineamenta, Synod of Bishops, XIII Ordinary General Assembly, par. 1)
These global initiatives are great, but what might we do personally on a day-to-day basis?
First, we need to orient our thinking toward making evangelization something we do naturally, in response to our baptismal call. Things like this don't come naturally to most of us, but they can feel natural, in time and with practice.
Describing evangelization as the way to respond to God's generosity really gets to its heart. To evangelize well is to first be in touch with the generosity of God. To meditate on God's first generous gift to us is to encounter God desiring a relationship with us—to experience God as our Father, as Jesus taught us pray.
The more deeply we recognize that we are loved and cherished as daughters and sons of God, the deeper our personal response to God's generosity will be. In that case, our role in the new evangelization is a necessary way we can give thanks to God.
Evangelization, then, might be very much akin to the way we give back to God via my stewardship planning.
What shall I render to the LORD
for all his bounty to me?
I will lift up the cup of salvation
and call on the name of the LORD,
I will pay my vows to the LORD
in the presence of all his people.
(Psalm 116:12-14, RSV)
A healthy sense of stewardship means that giving to the Lord, or making a return to the Lord, is not a forced obligation. It is an opportunity to bless someone else, overflowing from the gratitude for blessings we have received. We do this with quiet and regular offerings of a percentage of income in support of the local church and a myriad of charities. We do it by sharing time and talents in volunteering at church and within the community.