True Evangelization


This is an excerpt from an e-mail I received from our former Pastor:

 I know a man who is dying.
 
This is no surprise—as a priest, I know and have regular contact with many men and women who are dying.  In the long run, of course, we are all dying; most of us are quite able to put that thought from our heads most of the time, though…
 
This man is not Catholic, nor really any kind of believer.  No doubt there was some hurt in his past; historically he’s had much anger for Christians of any stripe, but especially of those “evangelizers” who decide that when there is a diagnosis of COPD or cancer or kidney failure it’s time to make an overt (and usually overdone) “pitch” to get the person to accept Jesus. 
 
The priest who is visiting this man does not do this; he simply visits.  He is simply a presence.  That is all.  And that is enough. An e-mail from his daughter told me that he said, in part:  
“Fr. X is nice: he doesn’t try to influence me one way or the other. He doesn’t know it, but he really does influence me.”
 
This is crucial for me.  In my experience I have found that the ministry of presence is the best form of evangelization because it is the truest:  it only involves being authentically who you are as a Christian, as a Catholic, and then letting the Holy Spirit do the rest.  It may or may not happen on this side of the “River Jordan,” but that’s not our concern.  Ours should only be living the Christian life of discipleship faithfully, being a willing tool in that way in God’s hands, rather than thinking we need to have God as a tool in our hands.
 
If the imminence of death makes us think about our state of mind/heart/soul in ways we didn’t before, it’s nice to have someone who can mirror respect and love rather than foist a pseudo-conversion on us which we accept out of fear.  That’s not our God—ours is a God of Love, Communion, and Presence.  We bring that Presence when we enter into Communion with another; it’s the way we realize that God truly is Love.

Actions speak so much louder than words. If the Church is to become relevant again in our society, it’s time to LIVE IT, not just SAY IT. 

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4 Responses

  1. It strikes me that too many “talk the talk” without knowing how or caring to “walk the walk”!

    Thank you for sharing this!

    God’s blessings…Janice

  2. Tim-
    I really like what your pastor shared.

    I was never good at being an “evangelical” protestant. Never felt comfortable evangelizing by sharing the “four spiritual laws,” “Romans road to salvation” or asking if someone had accepted Jesus as their Savior. It always felt contrived. It wasn’t until I was in my thirties that I started to understand this idea that evangelism begins with loving others right where they are and becoming a part of their lives, which often requires personal sacrifice. Like your pastor said, “the ministry of presence.”

    Hmmm, makes me think about Christ’s real presence in the Eucharist. He comes to us in a humble, almost unassuming way and is “present” for us. Not only is He present for us, He enters our “messy” lives and loves us right where we are. And finally through His personal sacrifice He gives us His presence so we can bring Him to the world through our presence. Beats the “four spiritual laws” anyday :-).
    .
    Amy

  3. I’ve noticed that too, Janice. Let’s hope we can turn the tide on this attitude.
    Blessings to you as well!

  4. Amy,
    You are so right on, on this point! As the scripture says “It is Christ who now lives in me..” His presence in our presence in the presence of others. Not just in the spiritual sense, but in the Eucharist as well!

    My wife shares a quote from the Mother Teresa book:
    “People are hungry for God. What a terrible meeting it would be with our neighbor if we give them only ourselves.”

    You can read her short post at: http://jipmeister.wordpress.com/2008/01/04/come-be-my-light/

    Thanks for your insight on this Amy and blessings to the family!

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