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Why the Gospel must be preached first by personal example

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Philip Kosloski - published on 05/28/21

Teaching the truths of the Catholic faith has little or no effect if not paired with a radiant witness in our actions.

Evangelization is typically described as the preaching and teaching of the Gospel to the whole world.

While preaching the truth is certainly an essential part of evangelization, one could argue it is “secondary.” What is primary in evangelization is living an authentic witness of the Gospel.

St. Paul VI expertly laid this out in his apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Nuntiandi.

Above all the Gospel must be proclaimed by witness. Take a Christian or a handful of Christians who, in the midst of their own community, show their capacity for understanding and acceptance, their sharing of life and destiny with other people, their solidarity with the efforts of all for whatever is noble and good. Let us suppose that, in addition, they radiate in an altogether simple and unaffected way their faith in values that go beyond current values, and their hope in something that is not seen and that one would not dare to imagine. Through this wordless witness these Christians stir up irresistible questions in the hearts of those who see how they live: Why are they like this? Why do they live in this way? What or who is it that inspires them? Why are they in our midst?

Being a witness to the Gospel is such an important part of evangelization. It shows to the world that we practice what we preach.

When we preach charity, they first see it by our actions.

The world listens to witnesses

When others hear our words, but do not see it reflected in our actions, they disregard everything we say. The truth, when it is not lived out fully, has little effect on the hearts of the people.

St. Paul VI pointed this out as well.

Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses.” St. Peter expressed this well when he held up the example of a reverent and chaste life that wins over even without a word those who refuse to obey the word. It is therefore primarily by her conduct and by her life that the Church will evangelize the world, in other words, by her living witness of fidelity to the Lord Jesus- the witness of poverty and detachment, of freedom in the face of the powers of this world, in short, the witness of sanctity.

We must preach the truth in the Gospel, but that preaching or teaching will fall on deaf ears if it is not first found in our way of life.

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