Practical Evangelization Tip #8
Memorize & Share the Story of Salvation
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From Scripture: “Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying: ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the Gospel.'” Mark 1:14-15 RSV-CE
“But how are men to call upon him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?” Romans 10:14 RSV-CE
Why it Works:
We live in an increasingly secularized world where Catholic and Christian leaders are scratching their heads, wondering, why are the pews so empty? Either religion is a human creation that exists to try to better mankind through charitable acts (making it effectively a NGO or non-governmental organization) that must change and adapt as society changes, or it is the divinely revealed message of God’s love and salvation by faith through grace. Salvation from what? Hell and eternal death.
When professing Catholics live in a manner contrary to the Gospel and yet think of themselves as “good Catholics” we have a need for a deeper conversion to Jesus Christ. The Holy Fathers have reminded us, though, that the “rules” of the faith (do this, don’t do this) only make sense and can only come after the basic proclamation and acceptance of the Gospel. We first need to hear what Jesus has done for us and respond to that gift of grace in order to experience the joy of having our sins forgiven. Only in light of the proclamation of the Gospel, believing in Jesus, and repenting of our sins does it make sense then to ask “how is it that God wants me to live?”
Jesus declared that we must be perfect as his Father in heaven is perfect (Matt 5:48), so we need to know that this call to discipleship is as worth it as it is difficult. We live in a wounded and broken world and people who have heard about Jesus and have gone to church before reject the Gospel as the way to find lasting fulfillment, peace, and happiness. We all want to go to heaven, but very few people today want to take up their cross, repent of their sins, die to themselves, and follow Christ. It is a tall order to ask for self-sacrifice in a consumerist society where we have been told you can have your cake and eat it too. The insanity of the postmodern world is that so many Christians think they can live like the Godfather: they reject evil with their lips while living pretty horribly evil lives.
The Catholic faith is the one true faith, divinely revealed by God. There is power in the proclamation of the Gospel itself and Catholics, like the great evangelists of the past 2,000 years, need to proclaim it with ardor and conviction. We need to practice. From St. Paul to St. Patrick the Catholic Church has always been a herald of the message of the new born King and the crucified Savior. By our baptisms and confirmation we too must preach the Good News to a broken and hurting world.
The Gospel must be proclaimed with:
- Power because the Gospel has power. St. Paul proclaimed “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel: it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” (Romans 1:16) Our Lord, by his cross, has silenced the demons. The message of the Gospel leads men to salvation. The Psalmist reminds us that “my soul clings to death; revive me according to your word.” The Word of God raises men to life, casts out demons, and heals illnesses. The person who responds to the Gospel and believes, in the fullness of the meaning of the word believe, gains eternal life. We do not need to “sell” the Gospel because it is the saving power of God. We need only be instruments through which the Gospel is shared with others. The Holy Spirit will do the work; we can plant the seeds.
- Joy because it is in our brokenness that God responds to us with his grace. Jean-Pierre de Caussade in his book Abandonment to Divine Providence wrote “no sooner have I sacrificed everything to God than we discover a remedy for everything and find whatever we need. And never does he fail us, so long as we put all our confidence in his protection. But what do people do as a rule? They try to substitute their own blind and impotent providence for the infinitely wise and good providence of God.” Even in the pain of violence, or illness, or tragedy, or death, and all of the sufferings of the Church Militant, the Church on earth, God saves us. He liberates us from sin and death. He is our hope and our reason for joy. In Colossians 1:24 Paul says that he rejoices in his sufferings to be able to unite those sufferings with the sufferings of Jesus on the cross for the sake of salvation.
- Enthusiasm because the Gospel is not a dead letter (CCC 102). The entire Christian faith and all of its teachings are oriented towards the “love that never ends.” Anyone who has heard the Hallelujah chorus of Handel’s Messiah can understand why audiences stand all over the world. We experience a movement of the soul through the fine arts of what Christ has done. Our hearts and minds are lifted to meditate on the heavenly glory of the beatific vision. What blissful joy! How can we not be enthusiastic, and with the apostles having received the Holy Spirit burst through the doors of the Upper Room and tell everyone, with urgency, of what we have seen and heard. St. Chrysostom spoke of the eagerness of St. Paul to share the Gospel through every hardship when he said: “What a noble soul was Paul! Having taken on himself a task full of such great danger, a voyage across the sea, temptations, plottings, risings – for it was likely that one who was going to address so great a city, which was under the tyranny of ungodliness, should undergo temptations thick as snowflakes. He lost his life in this way, cut down by a tyrant. Yet still he was ready to undergo great troubles. In fact he was enthusiastic even in travail, even as one in haste.” (Homilies on Romans 2)
Tips for Success:
- Memorize the Kergyma. Here it is:
- God created you in His image and likeness. He loves you. (Genesis 1:27)
- Due to sin we have a broken relationship with God. (Romans 6:23)
- Jesus Christ, God’s Son, became man, died on the cross, and rose for our salvation. (Philippians 2:7-10)
- We are saved by faith in Jesus Christ, and through Jesus our relationship with God is restored. (John 3:16)
- Through the Church we have access to grace by baptism and are nourished by the Eucharist. (Matthew 16:18-19)
- Through the Holy Spirit God changes us, his grace perfects us, and he fulfills our every desire. (Matthew 5:48)
- Find opportunities to share the Gospel with others in appropriate ways, but do share it!
- Joining a St. Paul Street Evangelization team is a great way to practice.
- Volunteer to serve the sick and the poor. They are the privileged recipients of the Gospel and our parishes should be overflowing with them. It will give the opportunity to share the Gospel.
- We must share the Gospel in words, not only in how we live our life. Offer to pray with people in your life who are wounded and hurting. Share the Good News with them.
From the Catechism:
“Through all the words of Sacred Scripture, God speaks only one single Word, his one Utterance in whom he expresses himself completely: You recall that one and the same Word of God extends throughout Scripture, that it is one and the same Utterance that resounds in the mouths of all the sacred writers, since he who was in the beginning God with God has no need of separate syllables; for he is not subject to time.” Catechism of the Catholic Church, 102
The grace of the Holy Spirit has the power to justify us, that is, to cleanse us from our sins and to communicate to us “the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ” and through Baptism: But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him. For we know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. The death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves as dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Through the power of the Holy Spirit we take part in Christ’s Passion by dying to sin, and in his Resurrection by being born to a new life; we are members of his Body which is the Church, branches grafted onto the vine which is himself: [God] gave himself to us through his Spirit. By the participation of the Spirit, we become communicants in the divine nature… For this reason, those in whom the Spirit dwells are divinized.The first work of the grace of the Holy Spirit is conversion, effecting justification in accordance with Jesus’ proclamation at the beginning of the Gospel: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”38 Moved by grace, man turns toward God and away from sin, thus accepting forgiveness and righteousness from on high. “Justification is not only the remission of sins, but also the sanctification and renewal of the interior man. Justification detaches man from sin which contradicts the love of God, and purifies his heart of sin. Justification follows upon God’s merciful initiative of offering forgiveness. It reconciles man with God. It frees from the enslavement to sin, and it heals. Justification is at the same time the acceptance of God’s righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ. Righteousness (or “justice”) here means the rectitude of divine love. With justification, faith, hope, and charity are poured into our hearts, and obedience to the divine will is granted us.” Catechism of the Catholic Church 1987-1991
“Lay people also fulfill their prophetic mission by evangelization, “that is, the proclamation of Christ by word and the testimony of life.” For lay people, “this evangelization . . . acquires a specific property and peculiar efficacy because it is accomplished in the ordinary circumstances of the world.” This witness of life, however, is not the sole element in the apostolate; the true apostle is on the lookout for occasions of announcing Christ by word, either to unbelievers . . . or to the faithful.” Catechism of the Catholic Church, 905
From the Spiritual Masters:
“And why do you not believe? Do you not know that faith is foremost in all matters? For what farmer is able to reap, unless first he have faith, and trust the seed to the earth? Or who is able to journey across the sea, unless first he have faith to trust himself to the ship and to the pilot? What sick person is able to be cured unless first he have faith to trust himself to the physician? Who is able to learn either an art or a science, unless first he devote himself faithfully to the teacher? If, then, the farmer believes in the earth, and the sailor believes in the ship, and the sick man believes in the physician, will not you yourself with to believe in God, when you have so many pledges from him?” St. Theophilus of Antioch
“If Christianity, as so often and so rightly has been said, is not primarily a doctrine but a person, Jesus Christ, it follows that the proclamation of this person and of one’s relationship with him is the most important thing, the beginning of all true evangelization and the very condition for making such a thing possible. To reverse this order and put the doctrines and obligations of the gospel before the discovery of Jesus would be like putting the carriages in front of the railway engine. The person of Jesus opens the highway of the heart for the acceptance of everything else.” Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa (Jesus Christ: Holy One of God)
From the Church:
“The Lord’s missionary mandate includes a call to growth in faith: “Teach them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Mt 28:20). Hence it is clear that that the first proclamation also calls for ongoing formation and maturation. Evangelization aims at a process of growth which entails taking seriously each person and God’s plan for his or her life. All of us need to grow in Christ. Evangelization should stimulate a desire for this growth, so that each of us can say wholeheartedly: “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal 2:20).” Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium
For Discussion Groups & Teams:
- Practice sharing the story of salvation with each other. Do not just share it one time. Have everyone in the group share it with at least 2 other people.
- How to people respond to the Gospel today? What are the difficulties we face in sharing the message of Christ?
- How can we be more effective and intentional in sharing the story of salvation? How can we more directly address peoples longings and wounds today?
- What are some other methods you can share the Gospel outside of the physical confines of your local parish?
© 2014 St. Paul Street Evangelization. Written by Adam Janke, Program Director.