The call to evangelize

On Trinity Sunday, we heard Christ’s farewell address to the apostles and to us in our Mass. Jesus still speaks to us today. “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. I am with you all days until the close of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).

Jesus commands the apostles to go forth and teach all nations. This is the commission to call people from sin to grace, from evil to union with Christ. It is a mandate to bring people to a living, conscious and active faith. It will involve baptism and a commitment to Christ and his people in the church. It will take a while before the apostles understand the full impact of Christ’s words.

Five times has the church responded to the call to evangelize. Peter, Paul and the Apostles answered the call by bringing Christ to the counties bordering the Mediterranean. The apostles went on to speak a language that was relevant to the peoples they met. By their loving behavior they drew people to seek Jesus and accept his saving message and affection.

The second call in the sixth century saw Benedictine monks from Italy and Celtic monks from Ireland proclaim Jesus to continental Europe north of the Alps.

A third time the call to evangelize was heard in the 15th and 16th centuries, when missionaries announced salvation by Jesus Christ to the people of the New World and St. Francis Xavier brought the Cross of Christ to Asia. A fifth wave began when missionaries like the White Fathers and the Maryknolls brought the Gospel of Jesus to Latin America and Africa.

At home in the United States, we have the need to evangelize in our own country. Many millions of our people are unchurched. At least 12 million of that group are Catholics. Can we hear Jesus appealing to us today, “Go forth and make disciples of those whom I blessed with the graces of baptism and shared with them the joys of the Holy Spirit and lives of virtue, love for the poor and my best gift of my body and blood.”

Secularization has caused alienation from the church. Remember the axiom that money is the root of all evil. Actually, it is the “love of money” that does it. The avarice and greed that result from the love of money are the roots of secularization. People still lose their souls because they want to gain the world. Social upheaval has caused alienation. Sometimes the cause is disagreement with the church’s stand on birth control, abortion or gay marriage.

It is essential to search for solutions. As a parish we are called to be a loving and caring community so that the alienated will find a home with us. We need to make them feel welcome. We need to learn how to make our faith personal. Ideas about God are not enough. We need passion and conviction for what we believe. The development of lay leadership, family programs, Catholic identity and conversion weekends need to be part of our missionary/evangelizing plans. They reach out to inactive Catholics and say, “Come home. All is forgiven.” At Easter Time, these parishes conduct “Springtime of Hope” for the millions of unchurched. Such parishes are vital, imaginative and affectionate for those who could enjoy and benefit with the Mass and the other sacraments. Good work continues. We cannot settle for any outreach but the best.

Norbertine Fr. McBride is a popular lecturer and author of more than 40 books.