Live the faith with joy as an example to all

a word from bishop les 2 350pxMany Catholics attended the Easter ceremonies this year and it is hoped that perhaps many are open to finding ways back to the practice of their faith.

In light of this and with the Feast of Pentecost approaching, we are conscious of our mission to evangelise. ‘Evangelisation’ is synonymous with missionary efforts – meaning the effort to convert people and draw them deeper into the life of faith, into a personal relationship with God.

On May 24 we celebrate the feast of Pentecost. This is often called the Birthday of the Church because it is the day the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to boldly proclaim the Gospel; to evangelise.
Courage replaced fear, understanding replaced confusion, and they gained a deep sense of purpose; they realised their experience of Jesus’ sacrificial death and resurrection was truly Good News and it needed to be shared. Their focus turned towards all those they were called to evangelise.

We too, are called to evangelise and the emphasis on this has been reiterated many times since the 1975 encyclical of Paul VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi. Emphasised by recent popes, including Pope Benedict, the new evangelisation invites each Catholic to renew their relationship with Jesus Christ and his Church. It is an outreach to baptised Catholics who have become distant from the faith. We are conscious of the power of Christ’s resurrection and, through the coming of the Spirit, our call to evangelise.

However, we can only share what we have received. In preparing to evangelise, we are called to conversion, which means continually receiving the Gospel of Jesus Christ, individually and as a Church.
Conversion is ongoing in the hearts of believers and it consists of knowing not just about Jesus, but in actually knowing Jesus. It comes about through the power of the Holy Spirit who gives us the grace to invite Jesus into our lives, to “put on” the mind of Christ by rejecting sin, and to accept the call to be ever more faithful disciples of Christ in the Church.

Unless we undergo such a conversion, we have not truly accepted the Gospel.

We know that people experience conversion in many ways. Some experience a ‘sudden, shattering insight that brings rapid transformation’. Some experience a gradual growth over many years. Others undergo conversion as they take part in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults — the usual way adults become members of the Church today. Many experience conversion through the ordinary relationships of family and friends. Others have experienced it through the formation received from Catholic schools and religious education programs.

Still others have experienced ongoing conversion in renewals, ecumenical encounters, retreats, parish missions, or through some of the great spiritual movements that have blessed Church life today.

Personal conversion for each of us will involve different steps, depending on our relationship with Jesus and his Church.

For those who practise and live our Catholic faith, it is a call to ongoing growth and renewed conversion. For those who have accepted it only in name, it is a call to re-evangelisation. For those who have stopped practising our faith, it is a call to reconciliation. For children, it is a call to be formed into disciples through the family’s faith life and religious education. For other Christians, it is an invitation to know the fullness of our message. For those who have no faith, it is an invitation to know Christ Jesus and thus experience a change to new life with Christ and his Church.

Evangelisation involves handing on the faith to our own families; in other words, becoming mentors in this way of life to a new generation of disciples. This means simply to share the Gospel, the Good News, through word and deed. That is why the four Gospel writers, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, are called Evangelists. Evangelisation always seeks to propose our faith and never to impose it. It is always respectful of human dignity and authentic freedom.

Writing 15 years ago on the need for new evangelisation, Cardinal Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI), explains: ‘Each man’s fundamental question is: How does one learn the art of living? Which is the path towards happiness? To evangelise means: to show this path—to teach the art of living. At the beginning of his public life Jesus says: I have come to evangelise the poor (Luke 4:18); this means: I have the response to your fundamental question; I will show you the path of life, the path toward happiness—rather: I am that path’.

The Church exists to evangelise, to share the Good News with all people. We are called to do many things in the Church, but our primary mandate given by Jesus and powered by the Holy Spirit is to evangelise. Correspondingly, every Catholic is asked to make it his or her own responsibility to reach out and encourage others to join with us in Christ’s family, the Church.

How can this be done in our Diocese of Sandhurst? There are three main ways to evangelise. Firstly, we witness, which is the simple living of our faith through our good actions and virtuous deeds. Secondly, we share our faith in an explicit way, typically by describing how God is working in our lives. Thirdly, we invite others to experience Christ’s saving love by walking with us in our Catholic Church.

Evangelisation is most effective when actions come first. It is said that Saint Francis of Assisi often taught the friars to ‘preach always, and sometimes use words.’

 

 

- Bishop Les Tomlinson, Catholic Diocese of Sandhurst, October, 2015

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