By Larry Peterson
The term, “New Evangelization” was introduced by Pope St. John Paul II, back in 1983. This call to evangelize has been carried forward by Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis. Even today, our priests often tell us to go out and evangelize.
Evangelization by the laity makes sense. A simple way to understand the problem is to consider that only 22% of those who say they are Catholics attend Mass on Sunday. Incredibly, 70% of those that profess Catholicism do not believe in the Real Presence. Those two things, the Mass and the Real Presence, are the nucleus of our faith. How can so many be so lost yet still say they are Catholic?
We Catholics have heard much about how we must evangelize. Unfortunately, most Catholics still do not know how to do it. Most of us even avoid discussion with each other about controversial topics in the Church. Indeed, none of us are going to stand on a milk crate on a street corner, hold up a Bible, and say, “Repent, repent.” So…how should Catholics evangelize?
The first thing we must realize is that we are part of a team The name of the team is Catholic/Christian. The owner and general manager is Jesus The next position is that of“coach.” There are different coaching levels such as cardinals and bishops. But we, the laity, have one regular weekly coach. He would be the priest saying the Sunday Mass we attend.
Standing at the ambo after reading the Gospel, he could prepare us for the week ahead. The ambo is his “bully pulpit,” meaning he can say anything he wants. The good part for him is that no one will say anything back or challenge him (at least I have never seen that happen). He would be our coach, and we parishioners, his team.
When we leave Church, that should mean the kickoff has been made and it is “game on.” We, the members of the coach’s team, will primarily and foremost behave according to the commandments. They are what we should treat as the “fundamentals.” However, we need to know more than the fundamentals. We need “coach” to talk to us about what is going on within the church and is on everyone’s mind. We need to know how to confront the other team’s game plan. By the way, the other team members consist of all those who reject and/or have fallen away from our faith.
We cannot evangelize if we do not know what Holy Mother Church teaches about certain things that are heard about every day. We rarely hear about church teaching on euthanasia and birth-control which are not permitted by the church? How about being told that gay marriage is not allowed and that the church only approves of marriage between a man and a woman.
You can be in full communion with the church and be a homosexual. But you cannot have a sexual relationship. The sex act is for married partners, a man, and a woman, only. I am a widower and therefore a single man. I am not allowed to have a sexual relationship unless I remarry. Priests take a vow of celibacy and do not have sex.
Here is a “newsflash: We have to eat, and sleep, and breathe, to live. We do NOT have to have sex to live. If we abstain, we will not die. How often have our coaches talked about those things as we sit in the pews?
There is more the coaches could help us with. Our game plan needs to expand. We need to hear about how divorce and getting remarried without an annulment is against church teaching. We need to know the rules about marriage, contraception, and birth control. And we need to be ready to talk about these things and not be afraid. And the coaches have to not worry about being politically correct or socially sensitive. They are there to help save our souls, not to make us happy. That can come second.
Alone, we can always be setting Christian example by giving a smile to someone passing by, saying hello to a stranger, opening a door for someone, giving some money to a person in need, or saying grace publicly in a restaurant. Those things can be our evangelizing warm-ups.
However, we do have an evangelization technique available to most of us. It is called social media. My method of being a “lone evangelist” is via social media. How many of you use Facebook and/or Twitter? How about Linkedin or Pinterest? Youtube? Snapchat? Google? Chrome? Tumblr? Instagram?
Go on Facebook and post, “I LOVE JESUS.” That’s it—you are spreading the “Good News.” We all can be evangelists right from our own homes. How easy is that? Or is it? You may lose some friends. I have for sure. I have also gained some. In fact, I have been kicked off Facebook twice for posting something about Our Lady.
Facebook seems to be primarily for folks to share about themselves and what they are doing, how they are doing, and how their friends and families are. Most people will not spread the “GOOD NEWS” on Facebook. But why not? You can post a picture of a child to promote life or an image of people feeding the homeless. Those are always Christian messages. The fact of the matter is, the laity must help spread the Word. The clergy needs us…and we need their coaching prowess. We are all in it together.
Copyright©Larry Peterson 2019