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What Does it Mean to Evangelize?

UK Catholic/Mazur

Juan Ávila Estrada - published on 11/25/13

To evangelize is to show the open arms of Jesus on the cross, saying: “I did it all for you.” That is what really transforms the heart and brings us to experience a new life.

Evangelization (the act of “preaching the good news”) is the Church’s “Great Commission”; it is the reason for which she was founded, sent, and supported by the power of the Holy Spirit.

This good news is nothing other than the love of God – an unconditional love that is as absolute, as truthful as the cross; a love that is not just “for humanity” (an expression that speaks much but says nothing), but for me and for you. It is a love that is not the product of greed or personal achievement, but rather the benevolent generosity of the Lord.

It is a love so freely given that it is neither deserved nor contingent on changes in our attitude and behavior (although we can choose to accept or reject this love by means of our actions).

It is not easy to evangelize, for it requires a personal experiencing of God’s love: his tenderness, his compassion, his desire to “make all things new” in me. Without it, we can simply convey the truths of faith as revealed in Scripture, but at the risk of becoming cold Christians who advocate these concepts without allowing them to transform their lives.

Evangelizing is not the act of threatening all those who do evil with eternal damnation, nor is it the raising of the sword of justice against all sinners, marginalizing and labeling them as lost. Neither is it declaring them enemies of the cause itself, for their ignorance may be preventing them from seeing the truth, which is Jesus.

To evangelize is to show the open arms of Jesus on the cross, saying: “I did it all for you.” That is what really transforms the heart and brings us to experience a new life.

To evangelize is to kindle a light. But how is this done? By showing truth. What truth? The truth of a person, the truth that is Jesus Christ: “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” But this knowledge of the person of Jesus is not limited to “know things” about him; rather, to truly know him is to live the experience of his love, to understand that what he did directly relates to me.

One does not evangelize by filling heads with abstract concepts. A faith that is perceived only by reason can make religious fanatics out of us; on the other hand, a faith that only touches the emotions can become unstable. But a faith that interacts with our reason, will, and emotions is a powerful thing that transforms life significantly.

It is here that our behavior is transformed. It is here that we learn that by faith, one surrenders his life for the good of others.

To evangelize is not to open the gates of hell for sinners, but to declare the love of God to each person so that this love leads to conversion. It is to show the face of the Church: a face of mercy and respect; a kind and welcoming face of a Mother and Teacher.

To evangelize is to heal the wounds that afflict us by means of God’s love.

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