The word “evangelization” is probably most misunderstood by us Catholics. We think of the street corner preachers calling passerby to turn from their sinfulness and embrace the Lord. Still others of us think it means going knocking on doors and inviting people to come to church; something like the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Whatever way we try to imagine what this word means, it conjures up fear within us that somehow we have to move beyond our comfort zones. We hear this in the gospel today. When Jesus is told by a potential follower, “I will follow you wherever you go,” Jesus spoke about not having a permanent home. “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.” It’s a nice way of telling the potential follower that one has to get out of one’s comfort zone.
Have you ever read a spiritual book that really touched you and you shared it with a friend? You have evangelized. Have you been moved by a CD of inspirational songs and brought a few copies for your friends? You have evangelized. Have you been in a small group which made you feel comfortable talking about your faith, and you invited a fellow parishioner to sign up with you for the Lenten series? You have evangelized. When preparing a meal for the St. Vincent de Paul Meal Program have you asked your non-churched neighbors if they would help make the desserts? You have evangelized. In a discussion at work, have you expressed your concern about the negative impact that campaign rhetoric is having upon our children? You have evangelized. I bet when you have done some of these things you have felt good about yourself. Evangelization is all about being true to who you are and inviting others into that truth. This is what Jesus did when he asked Peter and Andrew to become fishers of men. He was being true to who he was and invited them into this truth.
I share with you a true story about a seventh-grader who evangelized his family and neighbors as both a conclusion to these thoughts of mine, and as an application of these words. At the last School Mass on June 10th I challenged the students to do three things this summer. First, I encouraged them to read this summer. I told them that I have three books lined up that I want to read. Second, I invited them to pray each day during the summer. I suggested a few ideas they could latch onto. Third, I challenged them together with their families to do one thing this summer for the poor.
A seventh-grader by the name of Jack asked his family for his thirteenth birthday not to give him gifts, but to help him collect food for the poor. He not only asked his family, but his friends and neighbors also to help him. He collected so much food his Mom informed the parish office that they were amazed. All of this is going to the food pantry at St. Martin de Porres Parish.
His family lives in one of the more violent neighborhoods in our community. Where there is violence, a young man of thirteen has brought his neighborhood together to help those less fortunate. Where there is fear, he has opened a door to peace and unity. The world needs more people like Jack and the family that has nurtured him. Thank Jack for making a difference.
Yours in Christ,