About every month I'm a guest spiritual director on a call-in radio show called "The Inner Life." It's part of Relevant Radio's programming (www.relevantradio.com) and runs on weekdays from 1 to 3 P.M. Central Time. On yesterday's show we talked a bit about evangelization. The question was: How did the disciples go from being cowards who abandoned Jesus in His hour of need to proclaiming His resurrection and being willing to die for their belief in it? What is the lesson in this for us?
I made three points.
First, the disciples had a personal encounter with the Risen Jesus. This is what they proclaimed: a person more than a set of beliefs. Because this person was risen from the dead and could now transcend space and time, a living relationship with Him is possible for everyone.
Second, the disciples, following Jesus' instructions, remained in Jerusalem praying for the Holy Spirit who came upon them at Pentecost. It was the Holy Spirit who transformed them from cowards to evangelizers. It was the Holy Spirit who empowered them to face suffering and death as they preached the good news of the resurrection.
Third, the disciples were filled with good news that they could not keep to themselves. For them it wasn't a matter of knowing that they should tell others about Jesus but not knowing how to do it. They just did it! They did it because they couldn't keep the good news (great news, really) to themselves.
And what are the lessons for us? So often when people talk about Catholic evangelization they feel inadequate, not up to the task, and guilty. Evangelization is not supposed to be one more burden or obligation. It will flow naturally from believers when three things are present.
First, a deep, personal, and ever-growing relationship with the Risen Lord Jesus who comes to us in His Word and in the Holy Eucharist.
Second, the realization that the Holy Spirit has been given to us in Baptism and Confirmation. The power is there; we just need to "tap" or "plug" into it. We just need to "access" that power by praying for the Holy Spirit to show us how to witness to our faith in word and in deed, and to give us the courage and power to do so.
Third, knowledge of our faith. The disciples were filled with the knowledge of Jesus' resurrection and its implications. This was great news that they could not keep to themselves; they wanted everyone to know it as well. In the world there is a lot of misunderstanding and misinformation about the Catholic faith. Every Catholic needs to be informed and to know the faith. We don't need to be theologians but people who have a basic knowledge of the faith and the teachings of the Church. There are lots of practical, easy-to-understand books and periodicals out there, as well as good Catholic media. Time and again I've seen people who learn a little and then thirst for more and get so excited that they can't keep the good news of what they've learned to themselves.
That's a simple recipe for Catholic evangelization and it begins with reading and prayer.