The last key to setting your family ablaze is to embrace the call to evangelization, “that is, the proclamation of Christ by word and testimony of life” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 905). For most Catholics, this seems to be the hardest one to embrace. Faith and Integration, the first two keys, can be done in private, so to speak. I can study the faith and attempt to apply it to my life without taking too much risk. With Relationships, the third key, we have some control over with whom we choose to cultivate our friendships. We can get comfortable in our own circle of friends who share our beliefs and values. Evangelization contains something we feel uncomfortable about. It requires leaving our comfort zone. The Great Commission for all Christians occurred on the day of Jesus’ Ascension into heaven: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19-20). Because Jesus has been given all authority, he calls on His followers – you and me – to GO and MAKE disciples. This can be daunting and uncomfortable. Jesus must have recognized this apprehension in the disciples on the day of the Ascension because He ends with a very comforting set of words for them and for us as well: “I am with you always” (Matthew 28:20). Jesus is with you always! He, who is with us always, just asks that we take Him to others. He’ll provide everything we need, the opportunities, the words, the everything. We need only to take seriously His commission, and then to act upon that commission. Do it. Evangelize. He asks you, He asks me to Go and Make disciples. So, ….
GO AND MAKE DISCIPLES!
First, PRAY. Evangelization requires that we fully embrace the fact that Jesus has all authority in heaven and on earth, that He loves me, and that He is with me always. What that means is that we must be in relationship, in love, with Jesus. We must PRAY before and as we GO. Isn’t that what the disciples were asked to do after receiving this commission, resulting in the descent of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost? We, too, must pray, asking for the Holy Spirit to come to our aid.
Second, GO. We can get stuck in prayer mode, so to speak. Think of Peter, James, and John at the Transfiguration. They wanted to stay up on the mountain with Jesus. Sometimes, as we grow in our prayer life, we can want to stay on that “mountain” with Jesus. As with those apostles, after the mountain top, we must re-enter, descend so to speak, into the real world which lies below the mountain. The good news is that Jesus comes with us. Be encouraged and GO! Go do the laundry. Go to work. Go to baseball practice. Go make breakfast. Go back to your ordinary life. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “this evangelization …. is accomplished in the ordinary circumstances of the world” (CCC, 905). Go do what you do.
Third, LIVE. The witness, the testimony of our life is the first means of evangelization. In fact, without living the life, our words will have little impact. This is the “I” in the FIRE acronym – Integration. For some thoughts on and practical ways of integrating the Faith into our lives, go back and read Part 3 of this series, on Integration. The bottom line is summed up in a couple of cliches that we’ve all heard. “Don’t tell me that you love me. Show me!” and “They won’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”. Actions often speak louder than words (OK, so it’s 3 cliches)! We have to live lives that evangelize, that proclaim that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
Fourth, LOOK. Now, having prayed, re-entering the ordinary duties of your life, and living our faith in and through those duties, continue to ask Jesus to help you to see the opportunities to proclaim His Good News. We cannot settle for just witnessing through our lives only. Often, we’ve heard the line (frequently credited to St. Francis), “preach always, use words when necessary”. Unfortunately, too often, the line has been used to suggest that living our faith, our “witness of life”, is sufficient to evangelize. In other words, it’s used to justify not using words at all in our evangelization. Yet, the Church is clear on this point, “this witness of life, however, is not the sole element in the apostolate; the true apostle is on the lookout for occasions of announcing Christ by word, either to unbelievers … or to the faithful” (CCC, 905). So, where do we look? Look for opportunities in our existing relationships (the third key, the “R” in the acronym FIRE) – primarily our spouses and our children. Also, be on the lookout at work. Is someone going through a difficult time in their marriage? Has there been a death in their family? Always be looking for opportunities to share the love of Christ with others. Stay in constant conversation with the One who promises to be with us always. Is this the time, Lord? Is this the person that You want me to introduce You to? If so, please give me the actions and the words that will show You to her. I’m ready to GO! Help me to MAKE her Your disciple!
For more on evangelization and going and making disciples, we highly recommend a book called Forming Intentional Disciples: A Path to Knowing and Following Jesus by Sherry Weddell, published by Our Sunday Visitor, Inc. The book lays out the current situation within the Catholic Church with regard to discipleship and evangelization and then provides very practical steps to implement in our lives so that we might answer Christ’s call to evangelize, to make disciples. Reading that book would be a great starting point for anyone who takes seriously the Great Commission, yet would like some practical help with how to go about answering the call. You’ll really enjoy the read.