15th Sunday in Ordinary Time
July 13, 2014 – Year A
Readings: Is 55:10-11; Psalm 65; Rom 8:18-23; Mt 13:1-23
by Rev. Mr. Ray Roderique, Permanent Deacon
Today’s gospel is all about the sowing of seeds. We wonder what kind of ground we are. Are we the path, are we the rocky ground, or are we the good soil? The question is put before us, the word is preached. We hear the word, but do we put it into action? That’s what the message is today, to all of us. I think most of us are like the rocky ground. We hear the word and it brings joy to our hearts but then we leave here and forget all about it until next week. And that’s about as far as we go. But that’s not what Jesus wants from us. He wants each and every one of us to be fertile ground, who hears the word, takes it to heart and uses it on a daily basis, week after week. How do we do all these things? Well, there are a number of ways.
A friend, who has been away from the Church for years, starts to reminisce about growing up Catholic. A co-worker tells you that she was baptized Catholic but never received any other sacraments. A neighbor begins to ask questions about God after the death of his wife. A family member joins a non-denominational Bible study and begins to criticize the Catholic Church. A stranger sitting next to you on an airplane admits that he was raised Catholic, but no longer goes to Mass.
These common, everyday events are all opportunities for evangelization. Unfortunately, too many Catholics don’t understand their role in the evangelization process. As a result, people who are struggling in their relationship with God or the Catholic Church are often ignored.
Pope John Paul II said there exists today the clear need for a New Evangelization. According to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, evangelization means “bringing the Good News of Jesus into every human situation.”
Evangelization leads to conversion. As Catholics, we believe that conversion is an ongoing process throughout our lives that brings us into closer union with God and the gospel message. Sometimes, conversion is a dramatic event that shakes us to the core of ourselves. Other times, it happens quietly as we are drawn toward new understandings and insights.
Conversion is always the work of the Holy Spirit. But the Holy Spirit uses ordinary people and events to bring about conversion. When you allow the Holy Spirit to work through you to bring someone to conversion, you have discovered the essence of what it means to evangelize.
Mother Teresa once said, “What we say does not matter, only what God says to souls through us.” Before ascending into Heaven, Jesus commanded us to evangelize when He said, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations…” (Matthew 28:19-20).
Throughout His ministry, Jesus used a variety of images about the need to evangelize. He talked about catching fish (Luke 5:10), sowing seeds (Mark 4:1-9), lighting a lamp (Mark 4:21-25), and how few workers there were for the harvest (Luke 10:2). He told stories about great rejoicing over a lost coin, a lost sheep, and a prodigal son (Luke 15:1-32).
Jesus was the first and greatest evangelizer. He came to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom of God. We see in His teaching, His miracles, His interaction with people, and His sending out of the disciples, the example of His own evangelizing activity. If we want to follow in the footsteps of Christ, then we must become evangelizers, too.
It is unthinkable that a person should accept the Word and give himself to the kingdom without becoming a person who bears witness to it and proclaims it in his turn.
Children need to be evangelized in order to grow in faith and understanding. Inactive Catholics, who no longer attend Mass regularly, need to be evangelized, so they can return to a life of active faith. Alienated Catholics who have left the Church need to be evangelized so they know how much we miss them and want them to return. People who have no faith need to be evangelized so they can be welcomed into a new life with Christ and the Church. Most of all, we need to be evangelized ourselves in order to strengthen our relationship with Jesus Christ and the Church. There are four essential elements in the process of evangelization.
- Listening. The most sacred thing a person can share is his or her own story. When we listen, we enter into a person’s heart, mind and soul. We see their search for meaning. We catch a glimpse of their struggle or their pain.
- Sharing our faith. We can share what our faith means to us in words by telling others how the Holy Spirit has worked in our lives. We can also share our faith through actions that demonstrate the ways in which we try to live authentically the gospel message.
- Extending an invitation. It might be an invitation to come to Mass or to some Catholic devotion, to talk with a priest or spiritual advisor, to read a book or pamphlet, to listen to a lecture, to assist in some ministry, to pray together or to attend a parish social event.
- Praying. Pope John Paul II tells us, “There must be unceasing prayer to nourish the desire to carry Christ to all men and women.”
While all of these elements are essential, the important this to remember is that there is no step-by-step recipe for evangelization. The Holy Spirit will use your natural gifts and talents for the work of evangelization if you are open and willing. Before long, you’ll begin to see that you’ve developed your own style of evangelization!
People have different preferences for how they evangelize. Here are some examples:
- Some people are active. They might help clean the church or help with the parish clothing drive. They evangelize by inviting others to join them. One woman decided to become Catholic after a friend invited her to help at a parish soup kitchen.
- Some people have had difficult lives and they can relate to others in similar situations. They evangelize by sharing how their Catholic faith helped them through a death in the family, an illness, or some other difficulty.
- Some people are willing to share their own personal story of being away from the church for a while and finding a new life in Christ when they returned.
- Some people like to study the Catholic faith and share what they’ve learned with others. They evangelize by becoming catechists, RCIA team members, or by becoming involved in adult education and apologetics.
- Some people love to meet new people. They evangelize by helping to make the parish more welcoming. One lapsed Catholic came back to the church after someone in the pews asked if he would like to join the choir.
- Some people join the evangelization ministry in their parish and develop creative ways to invite inactive Catholics and people who are unchurched to parish events.
- Some people casually bring God into conversation at work or in the community without being overbearing or offensive.
- Some people are willing to pray with people who are going through a difficult time.
You should constantly be on the lookout for people who may be open to a conversion experience. The most common sign is when people begin to ask questions about God, good and evil, or the meaning of life.
Reminiscing about Catholic school, nuns, priests or parish activities is another sign that someone may feel drawn to God or the Church.
Asking where they can find Catholic reading materials is yet another sign. It’s a good idea to keep a supply of Catholic books, newspapers, magazines, and pamphlets on hand.
Comments about the Pope, the Church, or parish activities can be someone’s way of starting a conversation with you about faith.
Major life events or crises such as illness, death, the birth of a baby, graduations, a job loss or transfer, moving to a new home, separation and divorce, financial difficulties, tension, and other stress-related situations can trigger a desire to find a closer connection to God or the Church.
Experiencing the presence of God during a Mass, a funeral or the celebration of a sacrament can stir feelings.
Noticing your faith, love and deep sense of inner peace can capture the attention of people who are searching for God. Don’t be surprised if people begin to ask about your spiritual life. At that point, you’ll know that you are truly an evangelizer and the Holy Spirit is working through you.
The word “evangelization” comes from the Greek word evangelize, which means “to spread good news.” The early Christians used the word when they spread the news about the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Throughout the history of the Catholic Church, evangelization has played a key role in converting people to Christ. Some of the greatest saints sacrificed their lives to spread the Good News of Jesus.
Today, evangelization is becoming an increasingly important part of Catholic life under the direction of Popes John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis, whose call for a “New Evangelization” has captured the minds, hearts and imaginations of Catholics all over the world. In John Paul II’s words: “For the disciple of Christ, the duty to evangelize is an obligation of love.”