Evangelization Is A Relationship

I'm in the middle of writing a book on evangelization or it might end up being a tri-fold brochure.  I don't know.  In talking with and observing people, it's fairly clear that evangelization is not very well understood and, maybe, defining some terms might help.  Please remember that I am and have been a Catholic in Indianapolis, IN my entire life and, being all I know, I speak from this perspective.

Apologetics is answering questions, clearing up misconceptions and countering objections.  It's focus is ensuring that the Catholic faith is accurately represented in the dialogue taking place within our society.  Contrary to some of what I have seen, apologetics is not a sledge hammer.  It is an act of love and should be conducted lovingly.  That is with the heart: sympathy, empathy, understanding, patience.  You know, 1 Corinthians 13.

Catechesis is educating those who want to know.  Most people associate this with the Rite of Christian Initiation in which non-Catholics participate prior to their entry into the Church.  Included in this Rite is up to twelve months of weekly instruction in the basics of the Catholic faith.  Catechesis, however, like education in general, is something of which every Catholic should avail himself regularly and for the rest of his life.  You can't love Whom you do not know.

Evangelization is not inviting your friends to join the new or the "hot" Catholic parish in the next town over, that you've just joined.

Evangelization is a relationship between a Catholic and another person who has sought out the Catholic that leads both people to a deeper relationship with Christ.  It is a long-term commitment to walk with another person on his journey of faith as a brother.  Since only God converts people, the Catholic's role in evangelization is to be there for the other person answering questions, being a sounding board, calming fears, offering suggestions.  Mostly, though, it's just walking with the other person without pushing him along.  Evangelization is providing a calm, quiet, understanding relationship within which the other person can take the time to begin to comprehend what God is asking of him.

While so much good is being done through social media, the new media, television, radio and print media to introduce people to the truths and beauty of the Catholic faith and to defend the Church, especially during these difficult times, all of this falls more into apologetics and catechesis.  Evangelization requires, it seems, a living, personal connection between two human beings through which each person can see Christ in each other and in themselves.  In my very humble and untrained opinion, the new evangelization to which Pope Blessed John Paul II was calling the Americas to undertake was an evangelization by the average lay Catholics in the pews establishing the human relationships that seem to be missing in our society today.  After all, how can you know who Christ is, if there is no one around to show Him to you.

In the Gospel of St. John, St. Andrew brings St. Peter to Christ and St. Phillip brings St. Nathaniel.  The sick man who was dropped through the roof, so Christ could heal him, was brought there by his friends.  We must remember that evangelization is a relationship.  It's being Christ to another.


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