A Missionary Heart
There are those who wish the church would be merely a charity or secular non-profit – who wish “religion” meant nothing more than “do nice things and be nice people.” It’s not that doing nice things or helping people isn’t part of what it means to live like Christ. But when people demand this of the church (or worse, when the Christian faith begins to mean nothing more than this to the average churchgoer) they miss the very meaning of the word “Christian.” It’s like the word “Christmas.” Say it enough times, and you begin to forget that what it literally means is “Christ Mass.” Pope Francis had this to say about this issue in his first homily as Pope:
“…we can walk as much as we want, we can build many things, but if we do not confess Jesus Christ, nothing will avail. We will become a pitiful NGO, but not the Church, the Bride of Christ.”*
That second sentence struck me the most when I read this homily for the first time. “We will become a pitiful NGO, but not the church.” We’ll mean great and wonderful things for the world, but nothing for God.
Pope Francis made this comment in reference to the proclamation of the Gospel: the message that Jesus Christ, God’s Son, came into the world, became a man, died on a Roman cross, and rose back from the dead all to free us from our sins and the consequences of them. It’s so easy for us as Catholics to put forth our “best faces” – the ones everyone wants to see. The face of the nun helping the poor. The face of the priest walking hand in hand with African-Americans during the Civil Rights era. I’m so proud that this institution I’m a part of does these things, but we can never, ever, ever forget that in addition to bringing material aid to people and being a voice for the voiceless, the greatest gift the church has to offer is the Gospel – a relationship with Jesus. Nothing else we offer comes even close to it.
If you are a baptized Christian, do you find joy in your relationship with Christ? Have you had those moments in your life when you felt like all was lost, but you reached out to Him and found the comfort and encouragement you needed? When you didn’t know where to go or what to do and turned to Him for wisdom? Has Jesus been a Shepherd to you, leading you beside still waters and just as faithfully through the valley of the shadow of death? Then it’s not merely optional for you to tell others about Christ, it’s mandatory. Some of the last words Jesus spoke to us on this earth were, “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel… teaching them to do everything I have commanded you.” Pope Francis puts it this way:
“All the baptized, whatever their position in the Church or their level of instruction in the faith, are agents of evangelization, and it would be insufficient to envisage a plan of evangelization to be carried out by professionals while the rest of the faithful would simply be passive recipients.”**
I know the feeling of being pushed into evangelization. My own father lamented the fact that I wasn’t into passing out tracts to random people and talking to waitresses about Jesus. But evangelization doesn’t have to mean speaking in front of crowds or delving into apologetics. It can mean something as simple as teaching your own children about the faith. It can mean teaching in a Catechesis class at your local parish. It can mean doing youtube videos.
Fill in the blank: “I am helping to profess Jesus to people around me by _________.” Pray about it, and find your niche.