I have been struck recently by the moments in which God is revealing to me how easy evangelization can actually be. In my work of discipleship and evangelization, it seems that too often, I am focused on “doing” things that I believe will make in an impact on others as I attempt to “fix” or “help” them to know Christ better. Over the last two weeks, I have been struck by three different experiences that appear to be challenging me in this mindset.
It all started with the Gospel reading from the Fourth Sunday of Advent:
Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.”
Christ, living in Mary, was enough to fill Elizabeth with the Holy Spirit. So much so that she “cried out in a loud voice”. Mary simply went where Elizabeth was and greeted her. That seems pretty easy to me!
Ss. Perpetua and Felicity
The second instance that stood out to me comes from the Passions of Ss. Perpetua and Felicity. I had read it before but recently gave it to a youth I am mentoring, and so I wanted to refresh. In section 16.4 it reads:
The tribune shuddered and blushed, and so ordered them to be treated more humanely. As a result, her brothers and all the others had the permission to enter and comfort one another, since by now even the warden himself was a believer.
Ss. Perpetua and Felicity, early martyrs of the Church, were so singularly focused on Christ and so eagerly gave their lives for Him that “even the warden” became a believer. It didn’t happen through their explicit preaching of the gospel message but rather through faithfully following Christ and being radical witnesses of His love.
The final experience hit me hard. It took place when I was meeting with the youth I mentioned earlier and her two sisters. I had asked them to share the most pivotal moments over the last few years that have helped them grow in their faith. One of them answered that it was a summer camp experience in the diocese. Another responded that it was the way in which she has seen her sister (the one I have been walking with for a couple of months) grow in her faith recently.
By way of follow-up, I asked her, “What was it that your sister did that made such an impact?” The beauty of her response was that she didn’t know; it was something to the effect of “she seems joy-filled and free.” Simply witnessing a change in her sister over the last few months had inspired her to want to know and love Christ more intimately as well. And her sister did nothing but witness to that love by dying to herself and taking on more of Christ!
The thing that strikes me about each of these situations is how it was not some valiant effort on the part of an individual to evangelize someone that made such an impact; it was the way in which they lived their lives. We can give all of the training in the world on evangelization, but in the end, it must all be so that Christ, living in us, can evangelize.
May we truly come to believe that we should “preach the Gospel at all times, and when necessary use words.” May we believe that Christ, living in us, is enough, and may we learn to follow Christ with such confidence that only God knows the ways in which our “yes” to Him sets the world on fire.