In yesterday’s blog, we discussed the necessity of evangelization in the modern world and why this call applies in a special way to the lay faithful.
But the question remains, how do we effectively communicate the Catholic faith in the world today? This remains a challenge especially given the competing voices in today’s market place of ideas.
Indeed, secularism and relativism have captivated the mindset of the culture. However, St. Paul reminds us in 2 Timothy 4 that our mission is to preach the Gospel “in season and out,” and the reality is you and I have been chosen by God to do so in our day and time. And, in the end, truth is on our side.
Following are four steps that help us share the faith with others.
If we are to be an effective communicator of our Faith, we must first know it. This does not require us to attain a degree in theology nor does it require us to become scripture scholars. Rather, it means we must be informed Catholics: faithful sons and daughters who have a good understanding of the precepts of our Faith and who know Church teaching on various subjects and issues.
Religious education is a life-long endeavor. As Catholics, we are called to a maturity of faith that comes about through prayer, study, holy reading, and sacraments. Participating in a bible study, reading faithful Catholic literature, attending spiritual enrichment classes, studying the lives of the saints, spending quiet moments in prayer, fervent reception of the sacraments all lead us to an ever-deepening experience of faith.
In addition, a small Catholic library of well-selected books is a must for the Catholic home. And, given the number of used books available today, this can be accomplished with little expense. I strongly recommend the following books: The Holy Bible (Revised Standard Version, Catholic edition), The Navarre Bible with Commentary (at least the New Testament), a good Catholic concordance, Catechism of the Catholic Church, The Catholic Encyclopedia (OSV), Introduction to the Devout Life (St. Francis de Sales), In Conversation with God (Francis Fernandez), Divine Intimacy (Father Gabriel of St. Mary Magdalene). These books are only a beginning but they form a solid foundation.
Secondly, to be an effective evangelizer we must expect to evangelize. A guest I once interviewed said he starts his morning prayer by asking God to send him people to evangelize throughout the day. Imagine what this world would be like if all the Catholic faithful prayed this prayer — and then followed through on it! The world would be transformed.
If we expect to evangelize it means we are prepared. St Peter tells us, “…always have your answer ready for people who ask you the reason for the hope that you have.” One of the best ways to “have our answer ready” is to prepare our testimony. Our testimony is simply our own personal story of God’s action our life. Through it, we “declare the wonderful deeds of him who called us out of darkness and into His marvelous light.”
My friend’s story of her personal walk in faith during a traumatic time inspired me to invite Jesus into my life as well. Now, I make it a point to share my own story of faith at every opportunity. Personal testimony remains the most effective means of evangelization.
The guest I interviewed shared with me a succinct and easy way to shape our personal witness. He suggested we break it into three parts: I was, Jesus Did, I Am.
I Was: First, we tell others about the way we were before we entered into a relationship with Jesus Christ or called on Him for help.
Jesus Did: Then, we share with them about the moment of conversion that occurred in our life, or a moment of grace that helped us in the midst of our struggle.
I Am: Finally, we outline the ways in which we have been touched,changed, healed by knowing Jesus in a personal way and being open to the grace He longs to give.
Finally, to communicate the faith effectively we must be patient. St. James says, “Be patient, therefore, my brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer awaits the precious yield of the soil. He looks forward to it patiently while the soil receives the winter and the spring rains. You, too, must be patient. Steady your hearts, because the coming of the Lord is at hand.”
My friend never imposed the faith on me. Instead, she proposed it through her testimony and the example of her life. Patiently she sowed the seeds of truth into my heart, watered them with prayer and friendship, and waited for them to take root. This process can take time. She was willing to invest it, confident that the Lord’s work would be accomplished in the end.
Ultimately, to the extent that each of us is willing to be a “first ripple” which makes an impact in the sea of contemporary culture, to that extent will the world of man be transformed. My friend was willing to be a “first ripple.” She shared her faith with me and it made all the difference.
This Christmas, as we celebrate the birth of the One who won us our salvation, let each of us commit to be a “first ripple” in the lives of others. Let us be found ready and willing so that many souls might be saved.
Today’s Spiritual Exercise:
With honesty and integrity, prayerfully consider the following questions. Then, journal your responses including your resolution.
1. To what extent do I desire to evangelize the faith? Am I truly willing to be a “first ripple?” Why or why not?
2. Of the steps listed, which am I most attracted to? Least attracted to?
3. How full is my Catholic library? Which book will I add or begin with?
4. Have I ever shared my personal witness? How was it received?
5. Using the “I Was, Jesus Did, I Am” method, develop your personal story. Write it out and review it. See if you can share it today.Watch and Pray: An Advent Reflection with Fr. Edmund Sylvia, C.S.C.
Copyright 2009, by Johnnette S. Benkovic. All rights reserved.