A painter paints, a writer writes and a doctor cures. Following the pattern, we can say that an evangelist evangelizes. Is this true? Is a person who evangelizes truly an evangelist? The Lord commanded us: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20). How can I be an authentic evangelizer? And how can I bear witness to the world of what I believe and what I am?
To know how I can be a good evangelist, first let’s look at what an evangelist is NOT, or erroneous concepts we could have when the word “evangelist” comes to mind. The first error we could commit is thinking evangelize or mission means doing many things, getting into a level of activism that turns us into social agents that lose sight of God for wanting to reach a lot of people. Maybe we think evangelizing is something that only priests, religious or people who are always at church can do. We might feel inadequate because we don’t have a theology diploma. None of these ideas conveys the Catholic view of evangelization.
To bring Christ to others you have to have an experience with Him. No one can give what he doesn’t have, and nobody loves what he doesn’t know. Just like when we want to get a tan, we go to the beach to sunbathe for hours, in order to bring Christ to others we have to spend a lot of time in his presence to fill ourselves with Him. Being an authentic evangelist doesn’t come out of nowhere. It’s a gradual process and a constant disciple’s apprenticeship with the Master. It is the result of a close relationship, a friendship, that must grow each day and can be seen in our works. “Faith apart from works is dead” (James 2:26), but it is important for you to remember that first you must spend time with the Teacher to learn from Him, listen to Him and get to know Him… To come to know what He thinks before I start talking to others and doing things, because if I don’t preach about Jesus Christ I will preach about myself and my apostolate will be fruitless, empty and senseless.
The core of evangelization is personal witness, sharing the God we know and love with others so that they may experience his love and change their lives to become true disciples of Jesus in a totally coherent manner. We know that when someone falls in love he or she can no longer live as before. Falling in love with Jesus will guide others to “a new horizon and a decisive direction,” and live differently as a follower of Jesus Christ (Pope Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est, 1).
While it’s true that the Lord uses us as his instruments to reach souls, we must understand clearly we are not the ones who are going to change them. We have to provide opportunities so that the Holy Spirit may work through us and in others through what we say and do.
Pope Francis in Evangelii Gaudium 120 reminded us that “all the baptized, whatever their position in the Church or their level of instruction in the faith, are agents of evangelization… Every Christian is challenged, here and now, to be actively engaged in evangelization; indeed, anyone who has truly experienced God’s saving love does not need much time or lengthy training to go out and proclaim that love. Every Christian is a missionary to the extent that he or she has encountered the love of God in Christ Jesus: we no longer say that we are “disciples” and “missionaries,” but rather that we are always “missionary disciples.”
So, in the following articles we will present seven more characteristics necessary in a good evangelist so that you can examine your conscience and see if you manifest them in your life. If so, it’s a sign that you are not on the wrong path. If you see that you hobble along regarding one or more of these characteristics, it’s time to change. Don’t put it off for tomorrow because the Lord needs you and counts on you to reach many souls. Carry on!
-Sr. Cecilia, SHM