There honestly is no other way of describing it- the work of evangelization is a messy work. It isn’t that the message itself is cloudy or unclear, for the love of the Gospel given is simple. “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13: 34-35). The difficulty then lies in part to our own understanding of the fullness of God’s love and mercy.
While we cannot limit or contain God’s love, time and time again we try to do so even albeit unconsciously. Yet, Jesus did not parse words, or seek to delineate all the exclusions to that love marked with an expiration date. Rather, he witnessed the love of the Father to the thief on the cross beside him, and welcomed him into the fullness of heaven that very day. And if we think about it, this is exactly the patient, merciful and unwavering love we desire for God to have for each one of us.
Here is where we begin to comprehend the who, what, and why of this term, evangelization, we toss about so loosely in christian conversation. For it is in the midst our brokenness, and the mess of life that we all too readily recognize how desperately we are in need of a savior. Only from this personal experience of just who Christ is for us in our lives can we really proclaim the joy of the Gospel. Not merely words, evangelization then is a lived encounter with Christ, a voice that calls us back with a love which compels us to go forth and share with others.
Share with one another
Are we, however, Christians in practice? Of the estimated 2.3 billion Christians (Pew Research Center, 2015) in the world why is it that we are not also growing exponentially in number? Naturally, deaths and smaller family size would attribute loss. Yet, if we were in fact living out the call of discipleship “to go forth and make disciples of men” , would we not be seeing growth of some kind commiserate with the population change? Perhaps, we have forgotten that this call once again was not for a select few, or that our faith cannot exist as a private exercise. Every sacrament in the Catholic church is by its very nature a community experience, as is to be every moment in between. For, by virtue of our baptism each of us has been called into relationship both with God but also with one another in the body of Christ.
“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”
1 Peter 2: 9-10
Relationships are messy
God never said that discipleship would be easy or that sharing the love of the Gospel would always be met with success. Unfortunately, many simply never try. While a vertical relationship with our Creator is essential, so is our seeking and encounter of Christ in others. This entails the practice of much patience and the commitment to surrender the result to God. Behind that irate or obstinate personality before you may lie a lifetime of pain, and neglect. Your witness today of God’s love and mercy may not bear fruit for some time, and may require others to water or nourish the ground to flourish. And, there may be several obstacles in the way that need to be removed in order for love and joy to take root. Messy yes. But you and I indeed, have been asked to get our hands dirty and hearts tested in this beautiful mess of life. To choose love, to choose mercy and in doing so to choose life.
What would Christianity look like today were it not for courageous men and women who were willing to share the joy of the Gospel? Am I comfortable witnessing my faith to others? If not, what is holding me back?