7th Sunday of Easter by Lisa Friedlander
I am a cradle Catholic; baptized and raised in the Church and proud attender of 16 years of Catholic school, if you count the three years of Jesuit law school. In all that time, I was never once asked to “evangelize.” I first heard the word from our former pastor Fr. Ken while serving as a member of our Pastoral Council and I must admit I cringed. Evangelizing to me meant those crazy TV preachers who begged for people’s money and then spent it on new cars and fancy houses or my spitfire born-again Baptist grandmother who used to corner my childhood playmates and ask them if they had accepted Jesus Christ as their personal savior (she terrified many an unsuspecting Catholic school friend of mine!). I could not believe that the Catholic Church, MY church was asking me to evangelize. There was no way I was going to start knocking on doors and inviting people to come to church with me. But, I liked Fr. Ken and he was my pastor so I gave him the benefit of the doubt to explain just what he meant by evangelize and I learned that no, he didn’t need me to go knocking on strangers doors if that wasn’t for me.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops says, “evangelizing means bringing the Good News of Jesus into every human situation and seeking to convert individuals and society by the divine power of the Gospel itself.” Our Bishops go on to say “[w]e know that people experience conversion in many ways. Many experience conversion through the ordinary relationships of family and friends.” Pope Francis says we must evangelize all whom we encounter. In a homily at World Youth Day, Pope Francis said “[b]e servants of . . . the culture of encounter! I would like you to be almost obsessed about this. Be so without being presumptuous, imposing ‘our truths,’ but rather be guided by the humble yet joyful certainty of those who have been found, touched and transformed by the Truth who is Christ . . . “
Simply put, as Jesus said to his disciples in today’s Gospel, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.” He does not tell them HOW to do it, he just tells them to do it. Our Bishops, Our Pope, Our Savior are all telling us to get out there and proclaim the Good News in whatever way works for us! Once I understood that evangelizing is deeply personal and can be accomplished in so many different ways, I realized that I had been doing it and even enjoyed it. While on an anniversary trip with my husband and seated at a communal hibachi grill table, my husband leaned over to me and told me that the couple next to him were from Lincoln Park and were thinking of attending Saint Clement. I promptly made him switch seats with me and went on to explain why I love Saint Clement and all the ways they could deepen their faith there. They went on the become members and recently got married here! When my father passed away, friends from every part of my life came to Saint Clement to attend the funeral. Many commented on my composure and my ability to get through my eulogy with smiles and laughter when other members of my family could not. Everyone grieves differently and at different times but I told all who asked that it was my faith and my Saint Clement community that got me through it. At least one family member added regular Mass attendance back into her routine because of my words. Evangelizing!
Whatever your method, whomever your audience, proclaim the Good News!