Living faith and authentic evangelization: Inseparable realities

Given by Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde on the Thursday of the Second Week of Easter at the Pontifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio.

The same two Scripture sources have been the focus for our reflection and prayer all week: the Acts of the Apostles and the Gospel according to Saint John.

As we know, the Acts provide us with an account of the early Church's growth under the dynamic power of the Holy Spirit. Enabling this growth to take place was the mandate given by the Risen Lord Jesus to go forth: to evangelize and to witness to the ends of the earth. From Saint John's Gospel, the readings from Monday through today project before us that nighttime conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus. As they conversed, Jesus was absolutely clear that God the Father "so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, so that everyone who believes in Him might not perish but might have eternal life." And Jesus echoes in today's Gospel account: "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life." So, then God's love is revealed above all in and by His Son Jesus Christ, and it is necessary to believe in the One Whom God has sent in order to evangelize.

I invite us to ponder the intrinsic connection projected before us up to now by these two Scriptural sources: Evangelization and Faith in God's Son, Who reveals the Father's saving love.

To evangelize is to proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, inviting everyone to experience His saving love as we ourselves are experiencing it as well. To evangelize is to witness daily, by living our joy-filled surrender to the Lord Jesus, our surrender in faith. Put differently, unless we are on fire with love for Jesus Christ, we cannot evangelize, for we cannot invite others to experience what we ourselves have not so experienced.

Of course, we understand all this. But understanding this in our minds, while so very important, is not yet enough. More is needed. What more? The doing in our heart what we understand in our mind.

We must not only understand that in order to evangelize, we must first be evangelized. We must, in fact, be re-evangelized, converted over and over. We must not only understand that to invite people with authentic joy to come to Jesus we must first experience His deeply personal presence within us. We must, in fact, invite the Lord into our hearts. This we do by opening our hearts as well as our minds to His Life-giving Word in Lectio Divina or in contemplative prayer. This we do by truly making our participation in daily Mass not only part of the day but the heart of the day. This we do, not in isolation, i.e., only with Jesus and me, but often united with one another: fellow disciples within the Community of the Church.

So, then, how intentional will we be in deepening our personal relationship with the Lord Jesus within the Community of His Disciples? How committed are we to surrendering to Him in faith - authentic faith whose very source is His yearning for our response to Him in love.

For the newly baptized, the 50-day period from Easter to Pentecost is a time of mystagogia, a deepening of their new faith-filled relationship with the Lord Jesus. Of course, we are not newly baptized. But, we did renew our Baptismal promises at the Easter Vigil and on Easter Day. Why not make of these 50 days an intentional time to draw nearer to Christ, more precisely, to allow the Lord Jesus to draw us more closely into His heart?

Of course, you are occupied with your studies and the conclusion of this academic year. Of course, some among you are preparing for ordination to either the deaconate or the priesthood. But, nonetheless, the Lord is calling each one of us to a deeper union with Him, to believe in Him so that, alive with His presence, we can truly and joyfully invite others to come to Him. We are called to be evangelizing missionary-disciples, whom Pope Francis, in Christ's name, is insistently sending forth to the peripheries, to those people far away: physically, materially and spiritually. Yes, living faith and authentic evangelization: These do not fruitfully exist unless inseparably united! Let us affirm this truth daily!

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015