John was a somewhat disgruntled young man in his late twenties who really didn’t care to hear about religion under any circumstance. He was raised nominally Catholic but drifted away once he left home and eventually walk away from all forms of religion by his early twenties. When I first met John, he was at a spiritual crossroads in his life and wondered whether he should look toward God for help.
Our first interaction was somewhat colorful as the first words out of his mouth was: “don’t preach to me.” Whether he anticipated a sermon from me or not, I simply told him “I’m here to listen.” Skeptical at my offer, he questioned whether I would be able to help him. I simply told him; “I don’t know if I can help you, but I can listen.” He was waiting for a fight, but the more he pressed the more he began to realize that I was not going to fight with him on any level nor did I desire to.
After a moment of silence, I asked if he would not mind If I may pray for any intentions he may have. His response; “why, is there something wrong with me.?” As one can imagine, John was very distrustful, skeptical, and doubted that anyone would care to listen to him. His behavior was quite consistent with many millennials and post millennials I have personally encountered who experience a sense of spiritual desolation and loneliness where an active relationship with Jesus Christ is furthest concept on their mind.
The human element of Evangelization
The Catechism of the Catholic Church reveals:
by natural reason man can now God with certainty, on the basis of his works. Bu there is another order of knowledge, which man cannot possibly arrive at by his own powers: the order of divine Revelation. Through an utterly free decision, God has revealed himself and given himself to man. This he does by revealing the mystery, his plan of loving goodness, formed from all eternity in Christ, for the benefit of all men. God has fully revealed this plan by sending us his beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit.
The intention and progression of any form of evangelization involves an awareness of the human element. With respect to my interaction with John, I simply asked about his skepticism toward God. He was surprised at my question because he thought I would chastise him for his skepticism. There is a destructive habit that occurs when in someone’s earnest desire to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ we forget to whom we are introducing Christ, and worst may be completely unaware of whether the person would be receptive at all.
When Jesus interacts with the woman of Samaria, she is surprised that Jesus a Jew would dare engage a Samaritan woman. What happens there after is a dialogue of love between Jesus and the woman, Jesus calls her to drink from the living waters of baptism, calls her to repent and change her current lifestyle, and reminds her why He came for the salvation of mankind. The beauty of Jesus’ interaction with the Samaritan woman is Jesus’ complete acceptance of someone whom He was not supposed to accept let alone speak with. Toward the end of their interaction Jesus accomplishes His task where the Samaritan woman desires to seek God and sin no more, a metanoia-conversion of heart has occurred.
The Incarnational element of Evangelization
The human element of evangelization is intimately tied with the Divine element of evangelization through God the Son, Jesus Christ. When the Son of God assumed a human nature, he automatically brought us into a communion that would reveal the love of God for His own children.
The intimacy of this love serves as the foundation of our evangelistic efforts because first and foremost, our actions must be directed to love God first, and then our neighbor before ourselves. If the premise of our evangelistic efforts involves us having a loving relationship with God, then any evangelical engagement that relies on a human element over the Divine is incomplete. The Incarnational element of evangelization involves the proclamation of the Good News of Jesus Christ and the transformative element of the Good News where the Words and deeds of Christ penetrate the human heart.
The Incarnational elements of our evangelization efforts also focuses on the liberation from Satan and his evil ways. If Jesus came to destroy the works of the Devil, then part of Jesus destructive efforts is to remove all impediments from knowing the love of the Father clearing our way to Heaven if we so choose. St. Pope Paul VI reminds us that evangelical discipleship involves a genuine love for the Word of God, a willingness to live out the Word and a desire to hand it on to others.
The Incarnational element of Evangelization encourages us to do the following:
- Preach the Gospel, especially Christ Crucified-1 Cor 1:23; Gal 1:4
- Ask the question: What do you believe? This question is an important passageway toward the Creed.
- Root discipleship in joy and hope-1 Pt 3:15. A holy disposition goes a long way.
- Evangelization is the greatest act of love-Rom 5:5-8.
In the end, our evangelistic efforts, both human and Incarnational must reflect a complete abandonment to God:
I abandon myself into your hands;
do with me what you will.
Whatever you may do, I thank you:
I am ready for all, I accept all.
Let only your will be done in me,
and in all your creatures -
I wish no more than this, O Lord.
Into your hands I commend my soul:
I offer it to you with all the love of my heart,
for I love you, Lord, and so need to give myself,
to surrender myself into your hands without reserve,
and with boundless confidence,
for you are my Father.
Blessed Charles de Foucauld