Sunday, May 12, 2013

Reflection - Evangelization

I may have spoken on this topic before but I have some new thoughts that I would like to express. We may never travel to a distant country where evangelization is most needed, we are not “professionals,” we have not studied for a couple of years on the topic, and we have not spent time delving into a particular culture, but nevertheless we are called by our Franciscan identity, our being Catholic, to evangelize. But, if you look around you, you will see a great need to evangelize - just where we are. There are so many broken people, so many lacking faith, so many un-churched. We have a lot of work before us.

In fact, in many ways, we can do a better job than our religions brothers and sisters, because of our secular life. We are more close to them, we are more visible. But we ourselves may be broken, lacking faith, sinners. To evangelize, we first must evangelize ourselves. That is why was are called to the Gospel constantly.

I’ve been reading articles in Salt and Life: A Journal of Contemporary Franciscanism, the Mission in the Franciscan Tradition volume.  One article is by Hilaire Valiquette, OFM, entitled Reflections on the Franciscan Missionary Charism. I would like to quote one paragraph that I found meaningful:

“At times, there has been a false dichotomy between ministry and fraternity, as if we had to choose between one or the other. Francis saw them as two sides of the same reality; without the work of evangelizing, fraternity becomes a self-serving elite; without fraternity (even full of conflict and contradiction), evangelization is the activity of self-righteous individuals. The danger (especially, it seems, in crossed cultural mission work) of the "lone wolf" mentality, with its self- righteousness, bitterness, and lack of accountability, is always present. We have a corporate responsibility to constantly call one another to conversion, to understanding and living the gospel we promised, and to bring forgiveness and healing to one another. We are accountable to one another and to the local church.…”

Although this is written with the first order in mind, I believe it applies to us as well. To be in fraternity as Franciscans and not be involved in evangelization is not who we should be. To evangelize without our brothers and sisters – the “lone wolf” mentality, is also wrong, for we are fed, formed and encouraged by them.

St. Francis, in his first Rule, taught us how to do it - his two ways. First, to simply be with the people we need to evangelize – get to know them and they us.  Living our Franciscanism and our faith is enough. He also advised to take nothing with us – we don’t need a lot of resources, we only need to be ourselves; he advised to be subject to everyone, that is, not to put on an air of superiority because we are people of faith – we can express our faith without being overly pious, which may turn others off. Once we have done this, at our best discretion, we can go to the second way – to proselytize our faith, to get the Bible out, to invite them to Mass. Will we be successful? Only God knows. But imagine if we brought just one person to faith, to believe, to think of their relationship with God.

Jesus often hung around with sinners – we need to go to them as well. He came for the poor, disenfranchised, not the  ”in” people. He came for the sick (in all its manifestations), the geeks, the unloved, the overweight, those lacking aesthetic appeal. He came for others like us.

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