The word evangelize comes from the Greek word meaning “to bring the Good News.” Simple enough, right? And yet it seems that many Catholics are afraid of the word evangelization and barely use it at all.
“Maybe we can call it something else,” I have often been asked, “something not quite so scary, so intimidating.” The word it in this context is the key and holds the clue to why many Catholics are afraid of sharing their faith with others.
Many parents often remark that they feel ill-equipped to pass on their faith to their children or to answer questions about Catholicism, particularly in regard to the moral issues. They struggle with cultivating a home where faith is placed firmly at the center. When listening to parents share their struggles, I often ask them what they are most afraid of about sharing their faith. “I won’t be able to answer all of their questions;” “I don’t have the right words;” and “I don’t know what it means to hand on the faith” are common responses.
If you find yourself having conversations like these, you are certainly not alone. All of us have had them at some point. It is important to witness to our faith. If we fail to do so, the culture that we live in will continue to impress values contrary to the teachings of the Church upon others, especially our children. Secular culture will steal our children’s innocence, their values, and even their time. Faith, while personal, is not a private affair and must be freely shared if we are to transform the world.
In working with those who find the word evangelization off-putting, I have found that their difficulty comes in thinking about faith as a construct, that is, as a set of beliefs and doctrines. Our faith, however, is a life-giving relationship of love. Evangelization is not about an “it;” it is about a “who.” Evangelization is the communication of a person: Jesus Christ, who loves us, died for us, rose from the dead, and walks beside us each day. Evangelization is about sharing our heartfelt understanding of how our lives have been touched, changed, and transformed in Christ; because of who he is, we cannot keep from sharing this joy and peace with others. Evangelization is not about having all of the answers or having a neat and coherent response to every question that we may be asked; nor is it the ability to regurgitate what we may have been taught in fifth grade. Evangelization is about sharing who we are as the people of God, sharing why our lives speak to a different and often counter-cultural set of values, and who Christ is and how he has changed us. This is what having a personal and living relationship with Christ is all about!
Do you find the word evangelization difficult to use in your ministry? If so, why? How do you introduce people to the term evangelization, and what do you think are the biggest roadblocks that Catholics have in sharing their faith? Post your responses in the comments section so that we can continue the dialogue and break the silence on using the word evangelization.