How do you answer Christ’s call to evangelize? Yes, we all have that call. But what does evangelization really mean? As followers of Christ, we are meant to participate in the Church’s mission: to proclaim the good news of salvation through Jesus.
In his Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles Laici, Pope Saint John Paul II uses the image of the laborers in the vineyard (Matt 20) to describe how we are all called to participate in proclaiming the message of salvation. Lay faithful should answer the call of Christ to work in his vineyard by taking an active part in the mission of the Church (CL, 3). Indeed, we have an “essential and irreplaceable role”.
As Catholics, we take for granted that there is at least the option for us to be involved with various ministries within our parish or to join organizations that care for and advocate on behalf of the least of society. And these ministries and organizations are important! What may be missing for many is the fact that lay people are called to take an active role in the Church’s evangelization mission. Christ gave to the Church the right and the responsibility to proclaim the message of salvation to the whole world, and through baptism, the members of the Church, laity included, carry on this missionary role.
But the greatest way to evangelize is by living a truly Christian life. One never knows who Christ may reach via a Christian within one’s family, at work or school, in the marketplace or through involvement in politics and society. At the most basic yet most effective level, we lay people bear witness to Christ and evangelize the world merely (but importantly) by reflecting Christ to others in our secular lives.
Pope Francis, in Evangelii Gaudium, challenges all Christians to active participation in evangelization:
All the baptized … are agents of evangelization, and it would be insufficient to envisage a plan of evangelization to be carried out by professionals while the rest of the faithful would simply be passive recipients. The new evangelization calls for personal involvement on the part of each of the baptized. Every Christian is challenged … to be actively engaged in evangelization (EG, 120).
Having been on the receiving end of others evangelizing through how they live their lives as Christians, I hope to be that person to someone else.