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Seize the Moment: CRISP SHEETS & MISSIONARY DISCIPLESHIP

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When I was a kid, I used to hate making my bed. To me, it just didn’t make any sense. Why am I making my bed when I’m just going to mess it up again? Is someone coming over? If not, why bother?

But, despite my protests, I had to make my bed every day. My mom forced me to. I’m sure she had her reasons, but, the only one I remember is, “Because I said so,” and that made me resist even more.

DO AS I SAY

As an adult, I try to avoid using, “because I said so” as a reason for anything. I thought I was doing a good job of that, but recently a friend brought me to a surprising revelation: I use that argument in my work all the time.

“You are obligated by your Baptism to proclaim the Gospel.” Ever heard that one before? I say it on a regular basis, and the Church does, too! For example: “Since the whole Church is by its nature missionary and the work of evangelization must be held as a fundamental duty of the people of God, all the Christian faithful, conscious of their responsibility, are to assume their part in missionary work.” (Can. 781)

That sounds a lot like “Because I said so,” doesn’t it?

It’s not that Canon Law is wrong. It’s important to acknowledge our Christian obligations. The problem arises when we only talk about evangelization as a fundamental duty, without mentioning the good to be obtained. There are, in fact, many goods to be had when we evangelize – both for the evangelizers and the ones being evangelized.

WHAT’S IN IT FOR THEM

The stranger receives many goods when he hears and receives the Gospel: the remission of sins; the hope of resurrection and eternal life and a changed life devoted to the good and the salvation of others. Jesus promises these benefits to anyone who professes and lives by faith.

Evangelization meets more natural and human needs as well.

When someone receives the Gospel, he receives friendship, community and membership in a family. He receives peace, joy and the reason for living. He receives love itself. These are all tremendous goods, and loving your neighbor means striving to give them to him.

WHAT’S IN IT FOR ME?

When you evangelize, you step into your authentic identity. We tend to think of missionary discipleship as something you work up to. You start as a seeker or a lukewarm Christian, then you commit your life to Jesus. Then you become a missionary disciple, someone who is brings others into that same committed life. But, in , Evangeli Gaudium, Pope Francis makes a startling statement: We are, all of us, already missionary disciples.

“In virtue of their baptism, all the members of the People of God have become missionary disciples (cf. Mt 28:19). All the baptized, whatever their position in the Church or their level of instruction in the faith, are agents of evangelization
…” (EG 120).

According to St. Francis de Sales, the key to holiness is to be who you are, and do it well. This is what evangelization does for the evangelizer. The discipleship path is about leaning into a present reality. It’s about being who you are, and being that well.

Of course, there’s also much more at stake. Evangelizing strengthens your faith. It grants you the assurance that you are following God’s will. It brings more hope, love and joy to your life, since these only increase as we give them away.

Come to think of it, evangelization is as rewarding as a perfectly-made bed at the end of the day. Perhaps my mom was on to something, after all.

Nicholas Hardesty is the associate director of Adult Evangelization and RCIA for the Center for the New Evangelization, an archdiocesan initiative that empowers parishes and schools to equip the laity for missionary discipleship. [email protected]

This article appeared in the January 2021 edition of The Catholic Telegraph Magazine. For your complimentary subscription, click here.

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