Do you know what is the nature of the Church? You might come up with various answers, but when the Church asks who are we at our very nature, it responds–missionary.1 Evangelization is at the core of who we are as Church–to go out!
Orthodoxy is necessary for evangelization to occur. Without it, one hasn’t anything to share, but their own conjecture and opinion. Without orthodoxy, there is nothing to share, and no need to share it. For evangelization to have meaning there is a necessary precursor of catholicity (right thinking-truth, fullness of faith and universal mission). Evangelization is about conversion of hearts, leading others to Christ through word and proclamation, into his visible body, the Church.
The idea that one would share their faith so that others might convert is odd to many even among Catholics. Too often I hear that one just needs to be a good person and when people notice, they will inquire as to the reason. The quote by St. Francis of Assisi, “Preach the gospel and, if necessary, use words,” has become a mantra to not use words at all. Can you imagine if the Apostles followed this principle? While our personal witness and holiness of life is important and necessary, so is being able and willing to articulate and share the faith we hold so dear. It is not an either/or, but a both/and. After the Second Vatican Council we have had an emphasis on our univeral call to holiness. What has not, in my opinion, been equally emphasized (outside of social action), is our universal call to mission. These two principles: holiness of life and sharing this with others must go hand in hand. We have two goals in life– to become holy and to lead others to holiness!
And, we need to ask ourselves how are we going to become holy? It is only through a total gift of self. It is through giving, that we gain. So too with our faith. If we want to gain in faith, we need to give it away. If we want to gain in holiness, we (in a sense) need to give it away. Holiness is not possible without mission.
- Ad Gentes 2 [↩]