Is ‘evangelization’ a Catholic word?
BY DR. JEFF ANDRINI, OFFICE OF EVANGELIZATION AND DISCIPLESHIP
The word often conjures up images of the TV evangelist or someone forcing their understanding of faith on you. But push past those feelings and see how important this invitation is to our world today.
What is the mission of the Catholic Church? We have a 2,000-year history and the mission has taken different paths throughout the centuries. At times, we have wandered from the original mission. When moving to this diocese three years ago, I was impressed when speaking with Bishop Medley when he said, “Our mission is the same mission that Jesus gave to his early disciples.” He referenced Matthew 28:19, “Go, then, to all peoples everywhere and make them my disciples.”
How do we make someone a disciple? In high school, my beloved pastor said, “The longest journey in life is 12 inches, from your head to your heart.” His insight was profound. It is not enough to know about Jesus, we must acknowledge accept God’s invitation to be in relationship. Pope Francis went right to the heart of it in his first encyclical titled, “The Joy of the Gospel.” He said, “I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day. No one should think that this invitation is not meant for him or her, since ‘no one is excluded from the joy brought by the Lord’. The Lord does not disappoint those who take this risk; whenever we take a step towards Jesus, we come to realize that he is already there, waiting for us with open arms” (paragraph 3).
Pope Paul VI said nearly 50 years ago, “The Church exists to evangelize.” We make disciples by helping people encounter the love and mercy of God. When they come to the Church, this love and mercy must be what people experience in the people of the parish – and by our love and example they come to see we have something they want. Then we accompany them into understanding how they too can receive the love and mercy of God!
Here is a definition of evangelization from my mentor, Frank Mercadante, “Evangelization is the process of invitation for individuals, societies and cultures to embrace for the first time, again, or more deeply the Good News of salvation through Jesus.”
Evangelization needs to become more natural and normal in our parishes as we seek to be missionary disciples of Jesus and to lead others into a living relationship with God. This relationship leads us to an experience of the “abundant life” that Jesus offers to all humanity! Let us renew our own discipleship by living in union with God daily and the fruit of this union will be felt in our families, parishes, and wider communities. We will be places of welcome, alive in Christ, and witnessing to a joy-filled way of life that works!
Peace in Christ,
Dr. Jeff Andrini is the director of the Office of Evangelization and Discipleship. Send comments to [email protected].
Originally printed in the September 2021 issue of The Western Kentucky Catholic.