JONES: Evangelize, share encounters with others through word, deed

October 8, 2019

This year the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) chose the catechetical theme of “Stay with Us.” This theme comes from the Emmaus story which we read at Mass every Easter season (Luke 24:13-35).

If you are not familiar with this story, it describes an event that takes place after the crucifixion of Jesus and occurs on the road to Emmaus and at the ensuing supper.

Briefly, a disciple named Cleopas is walking towards Emmaus with another disciple when they meet Jesus. After walking with them while explaining Scripture, Jesus makes plans to leave, and they ask him to “Stay with us.” Plain and simple, the Emmaus story is a story of encounter.

As part of its Strategic Plan (2017-2020), the USCCB calls us to create a culture of encounter. Creating this requested culture of encounter is a process of formation in the faith that invites all of us Catholics to be part of an intense missionary activity.

We are called to what is referred to the new evangelization, improving how we serve those on the peripheries in our dioceses, parishes, and other Catholic organizations, movements and institutions.

To serve all Catholics, not just those who we see in the Mass weekly or those enrolled in our faith formation classrooms. It includes reaching out to our non-practicing Catholics, to those who feel alienated and not worthy of celebrating Mass with us. So, how do we do this? We, as a Church, need to be a Church in mission; the mission of evangelization. To evangelize and reach out to others, we must first begin by listening to our Lord’s call to a loving encounter; an encounter with Him. We cannot share what we do not have.

How can we call others to encounter Christ when we, ourselves, have not? Retreats, various forms of prayer, adoration, attendance at Mass and reading Scripture are a few ways in we can encounter Jesus.

The natural reaction to an authentic encounter with Jesus is to share it. Why would you want to keep the Good News of Jesus Christ to yourself? “But I can’t speak to strangers about Jesus,” you say. I know that it’s not everyone’s gift.

However, you could try to share your encounter with your family and close friends. You don’t have to convince them. If it’s an authentic encounter, they will be able to see the love of Christ in you.

But if verbal affirmation is just not your calling, there are other ways to evangelize. Show how your Christ encounter affected you through your actions. Whether it is volunteering to help the poor and needy or just by your happy and peaceful attitude, fulfill your mission by sharing.

And by all means, celebrate the joy you find in your encounter with His Church. To sustain that joy, become a missionary disciple, for it is what we are called to be by our Baptism.

Our mission, according to the new evangelization, can be accomplished by walking with Him and reaching out to the Catholics who, for one reason or another, have drifted away. Invite them back. Show them the joy that an encounter with Christ can bring.

In conclusion, as we journey through this coming catechetical year, let us be mindful of our encounter with Jesus and in doing so, reach out to others with an evangelizing spirit.

If you have not had a meaningful encounter with Jesus, seek him out. Perhaps register for a retreat, go on a pilgrimage or find a spiritual director with whom to meet. The USCCB calls all Catholics in the United States to become authentic, joyful missionary disciples by giving witness of God’s love with a prophetic voice and by encountering their brothers and sisters in Christ. 

Deborah Jones is an associate director at the Archdiocesan Office of Evangelization and Catechesis.