This past weekend I helped lead a men’s spiritual retreat and I was slated to give a reflection for meditation early Saturday afternoon. I’d known I had to do this for some time but I was yet unprepared with any subject matter upon which to talk. I often procrastinate but that wasn’t the case in this instance. I simply didn’t know what I wanted to say. Contrary to ordinary, I wasn’t worried. I knew the Holy Spirit would guide me.
We attended Mass in the morning before the retreat began and I prayed for inspiration. As I concentrated on the first reading, Acts 4:13-21, I had a glimmer of hope. This passage spoke of Apostles Peter and John, after they had cured the lame beggar and converted five thousand, being ordered by the Sanhedrin to cease speaking and teaching about Jesus. Then, as I heard the Gospel, Mark 16:9-15, about Jesus’ resurrection, appearing to Mary Magdalene and the Disciples, and His commissioning of the Eleven Apostles, I knew the Holy Spirit had come through for me again! After a few minutes alone, and by the Grace of God, I had my reflection in hand:
“In this morning’s reading from The Acts of the Apostles, I heard Peter and John tell the Sanhedrin, 19 ‘Whether it is right in the sight of God for us to obey you rather than God, you be the judges. 20 It is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard.’”
“And from the Gospel of Mark, I heard Jesus say to His Apostles, 15 ‘Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.”’
“These two passages speak to me of evangelization. They speak to me of the spirit of the Christ Renews His Parish program, which is itself an instrument of evangelization.”
“When I think of evangelization I usually think of two things: evangelization within the Church, and evangelization outside the Church. Pope Paul wrote, ‘The Church is an evangelizer, but she begins by being evangelized Herself….She has a constant need of being evangelized if She wishes to retain freshness, vigor and strength in order to proclaim the Gospel’.”
“Ever since I became Catholic I’ve known the mission of the Church is to proclaim the Gospel and to bring others to Christ. Pope Paul told us that before we can do that successfully we must evangelize within; that is, we have to be healthy to be believable to those without.”
“That’s what Christ Renews His Parish does, it evangelizes within the Church. It lights a fire inside those who have let their fire go out as well as stoke the fires of those who already burn brightly. It allows the ‘Holy Spirit to kindle in them the fire of His love’.” Imagine trying to spread the Gospel without this!”
“Someone on the outside looking in might be under the impression that all Catholics, or all Christians for that matter, are holy, and are always holy. They would be wrong, of course. Just in this group of 42 men, we are all at different levels of holiness. But, as our Deacon said this morning, our job as Christians is to get to heaven. And, some of us need help from each other to get there. It might be a family member who helps us, or a priest, or the person sitting next to you right now.”
“We can each evangelize this weekend by getting to know each other, by supporting one another, and by sharing, even in small ways, how Christ has worked in our lives. And, we can do the same thing after this weekend to people we know and meet.”
“Yesterday in my Holy hour of Adoration, I read a sermon from St. Augustine: ‘Scattered about the entire earth, your mother the Church is tormented by the assaults of error. She is also afflicted by the laziness and indifference of so many of the children she carries around in her bosom as well as by the sight of so many of her members growing cold, while she becomes less able to help her little ones. Who then will give her the necessary help she cries for if not other children and other members to whose number you belong?’”
“St. Augustine wrote that in the 5th century. Not much has changed in the last 1,600 years. We are still called to answer those cries for help.”
“As I was writing this I realized there is actually a third level of evangelization: self-evangelization. Going back to what Pope Paul wrote, before the Church can proclaim the Gospel without, it has to get healthy within. And, like the Church, for us to perform our role successfully, we have to be spiritually healthy. Individually, we need to be evangelized within. How do we take ownership and make that happen?”
“To kick off our retreat, our opening scripture reading this morning was John 1:1 – ’In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.’ Personally, I believe therein lies the key. We can evangelize ourselves by reading the Word of God, by picking up His Book, the Bible, and reading the scriptures and listening to His Word. In doing so, we let it change us and we let it direct us.”
“As you go forward on this weekend and beyond, I’d like to leave you with this question upon which to meditate: With the renewal you will experience this weekend, how will you evangelize yourself, evangelize to others, and profess your faith in ways that will strengthen the whole Church, the Body of Christ?”
And, so that I “practice what I preach”, I offer this reflection to you, the reader, and ask you the same question: How will you evangelize within and without?
God bless you all.
(How Will You Evangelize? was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)
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