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Six tips to better avoid evangelizing others
It’s getting harder and harder for Catholics to avoid this recent evangelization kick so many parishes have been on.
Simply put, evangelizing means spreading the Good News. But really, isn’t that the job of the parish staff and a handful of volunteers? Of course it is.
It seems some of us, many of us, have a pat answer to Jesus’ “Go, therefore, and make disciples” (Mt 28:19). We say: “Not I, Lord!” The problem is, there might be a tiny, nagging tickle in your heart and soul suggesting that you’re supposed to be doing some of this evangelization stuff.
Be at peace. Here’s how to avoid the whole situation.
1. Never make the mistake of introducing yourself to someone before, during or after Mass. It doesn’t matter if it’s a weekday or weekend, a small nod and a smaller smile are more than enough to say a proper hello and avoid embarrassment.
What could possibly be worse than offering a hearty greeting and asking if they’re new to the parish only to discover they’ve been members since John Paul II was pope? This is what could be worse: You find out they’ve been attending the same 9 o’clock Mass that you’ve been going to for years.
Of course, you don’t want to give the cold shoulder to someone who’s just visiting or a new member. But if it’s a toss-up between showing Christian hospitality or ending up feeling totally embarrassed, well, no contest, right? Cold shoulder it is.
2. Keep in mind, not getting involved in any sort of evangelizing can be a true act of humility. Jesus was really big on that virtue, so … “Lord, I am not worthy.” And there you go!
Evangelizing may be all well and good, but not everyone in the parish can do it. Just as not everyone in the parish can match Mrs. Benson’s kitchen skills when it comes to parish-hall pancake breakfasts.
Not everyone can be a lector. Sing in the choir. Serve on the parish finance council. Teach religious ed. And on and on. Many are called (to be in the parish) but few are chosen (to evangelize). So rest easy.
Yes, there are some small, simple ways to evangelize but that’s not what the parish is really talking about, is it? No, probably not.
3. Be brave and admit to yourself you would rather die — well, not literally — than follow your pastor’s suggestion to invite a friend, family member or neighbor to some parish event. Not a Christmas concert. Not a spaghetti dinner. Not an Octoberfest gathering. Not an Easter Mass.
Not … anything.
Why? Well, you’re not one to force your beliefs on others. And you’re not one to risk alienating a friend, family member or neighbor. Just asking could tank a relationship, couldn’t it? No doubt.
For instance: If you asked, “Hey, you wanna go to the Knights of Columbus fish fry with me?”, they would think it was nothing but a ploy to get them to believe what the Roman Catholic Church teaches about the Blessed Mother. Or some such.
They’d be on high alert because sometimes tartar sauce greases the slippery slope to an unwanted cult-like conversion.
4. “Proselytize” is a word to embrace. More soothing than any balm of Gilead. It means “the old hard sell” and just about everyone has been on the receiving side of that at one time or another.
You don’t want to mercilessly batter someone you know or a complete stranger. You don’t want to club them over the head with your religion and toss in more than a few comments on how hot hell is. And humid.
If only there were a line between gently sharing the Faith and smacking others in the face with it. Yes, well, if you want to avoid evangelizing, it’s best to keep believing there is no such line.
5. You don’t know enough/you don’t want to learn more. This is true, to a degree. You’re no theologian. And if you are, you could be a better one, right? And you just don’t have the time and energy to learn more about Catholicism. To read a book or two. Attend a class or two. Agree to go and talk to a person or two. Eek! That one’s really scary.
There are people who do this, so why should you? They’re called apologists. No, they don’t go around saying, “Oh. wow. Sorry about that.” They, as a dictionary explains, “speak or write in defense of someone or something.”
They along with priests, nuns, missionaries and such are at one end of the “evangelizing spectrum,” and most of us are way, way over at the other. We’re the ones who hold a solid fear of being asked a question and not knowing the answer.
“Why do Catholics worship graven images?” “How does bread become Jesus?” “What’s the deal with Catholics and bingo?” And so forth.
Yes, the big catch with introducing someone to Catholicism is there may be some homework involved. You may have to say (confess!), “I don’t know.” You may have to tell them you need to do a little research and get back to them on that.
6. So … keep your head down and your mouth shut. Show up for Sunday Mass, drop a check in the basket at the offertory and race out the door right after Communion.
Keep alert, and you’ll be all right.
But then …
If after all of the above, you still think maybe there might be something to this evangelizing craze and you want to maybe give it a (small) shot, here are three suggestions:
A. Be a good Catholic. Let your little light — that is, your life — shine.
B. Pray for frontline evangelizers and those being stirred by the Holy Spirit to take a closer look at the Church.
C. Take one (no, two!) baby steps toward eliminating one (or maybe two!) excuses you’ve been using to avoid following Jesus’ command to his apostles. His words to you.
Bill Dodds writes from Washington.
|EVANGELIZATION: THREE VOICES, ONE VIEW|
Pope St. John Paul II
Pope Benedict XVI