"Disciples Called to Witness: The New Evangelization." This document was created as a resourse for all Cathoics to become evangelizers, to invite newcomers to the faith and to reach out to "our missing brothers and sisters." We have been hearing about New Evangelization for quite a number of years. In the Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte, which Pope John Paul II issued for the Jubilee Year 2000 he encouraged all Catholics to "direct our thoughts to the future." In this new text, the US bishops are encouraging all of us to take up the challenge to strengthen our own faith, and to share the Gospel message to those who have strayed or become lukewarm, to those who are Catholics in name only.
Having just downloaded the document this morning, I haven't had the chance to give it more than a quick read, but it puts much responsibility on we the laity. Yes, the parish does have a responsibility to provide programs and education but we have the responsibility as Catholics to live as disciples of Christ, to be open to the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and to use those gifts to further the Kingdom of God. We need to be formed into disciples who know how to share our faith with others.
Sharing our faith is not something we Catholics have done well in recent times. During this Easter Season as we read from the Acts of the Apostles, we hear how the early disciples of Christ preached Christ risen from the dead and brought many people to the faith. You might say that they had the fire of the Holy Spirit within them, but so should we. It is the same Spirit that we received at our baptism, the same Spirit that we were sealed with at our Confirmation.
Before we can be effective evangelizers we need to equip ourselves with the tools to be great evangelizers. We need to be converted to Christ over and over again, reorienting our selves to Him. We need to fully engage ourselves in the sacramental and devotional life of the Church, we need to take advantage of educational opportunities and to spend time in prayer.
I think most of all we need to learn to tell our stories. We need to let others know what our faith has done and continues to do for us. We need to let others know what letting Christ into their life can do for them. Not everyone will listen to us, and there is the possibility that people will label us as a bit odd. But in a sense we are odd in that we are different than others because we belong to Christ in a world where individualism , materialism, and secularism rule the lives of most people. Odd as we may appear, we need to overcome all obstacles to preach the truth of the Gospels not only in words but in how we live and how we invite others to experience Christ.
I am looking forward to sitting down this evening and giving the document a good read, and then take it to prayer so that I may work on becoming a more effective evangelizer and help others to be evangelizers as well. What a challenge! I pray that Jesus will give me the strength and courage to heed His command to "go and make disciples of all nations," and to invite those who have drifted to come back to the Lord.