Called to 'be more' in expressing the joy of the Gospel
(Section 1, published Dec. 18, 2017)
An encounter with Jesus is at the heart of the Christian journey.Spanish download link
But that encounter is not the end. After we have encountered the Lord, we must remember this encounter as the source of our life and witness.
Salvation history teaches us the significance of remembering our encounters with the Lord. The Book of Judges tells of a repeated cycle in which Israel forgets its covenant with God and recounts the disastrous consequences of this failure to remember. Psalm 105 provides a beautiful recollection of God's faithfulness, and a call to remain mindful of all that God has done: "Remember the wonderful works He has done, His miracles, and the judgment He uttered, O offspring of His servant Abraham, children of Jacob, His chosen ones." As Pope Francis points out: "The joy of evangelizing always arises from grateful remembrance" ("Evangelii Gaudium" 13).
From reading the Gospels and from the examples of holy men and women, we know how important this grateful remembrance is. To put it starkly: even Judas had a profound encounter with the Lord. He failed, as the Pharisees failed, to foster a grateful remembrance of that encounter. If we don't foster grateful remembrance, we court their fate.
In addition to encounter and grateful remembrance, we must give witness to our experience of the saving love of God in Christ Jesus. This is true even when we don't feel prepared or seem to have all the answers. Pope Francis challenges us on this point:
"(A)nyone who has truly experienced God's saving love does not need much time or lengthy training to go out and proclaim that love ... If we are not convinced, let us look at those first disciples, who, immediately after encountering the gaze of Jesus, went forth to proclaim Him joyfully: "We have found the Messiah!" (John 1:41). The Samaritan woman became a missionary immediately after speaking with Jesus and many Samaritans come to believe in Him "because of the woman's testimony" (John 4:39). So too, St. Paul, after his encounter with Jesus Christ, "immediately proclaimed Jesus" (Acts 9:20; 22:6-21). So what are we waiting for?" ("Evangelii Gaudium" 120)
Being more: Prayer and action
Encounter. Grateful remembrance. Joyful witness. It might seem overwhelming. The question nobody probably wants to hear is: How can we do more?
But let's step back for a moment. Our first call as missionary disciples isn't necessarily to do more. Our first call is to be more.
What does that mean?
In part, it means avoiding the temptation to jump into mission without cultivating fertile ground in which to plant seeds of evangelization. When the soil is rich, the outward manifestations of our faith come more easily and bear greater fruit.
How do we build a foundation in Christ? First and foremost, by becoming a people of prayer.
Lisa Johnston | firstname.lastname@example.org
Too often our contemporary world is skeptical, distrustful and hostile toward prayer. Many struggle to find the value and effectiveness of prayer, especially when confronted by human brokenness, tragedy and violence. Appeals to prayer can be interpreted as inauthentic: "But it doesn't do anything."
We aren't asked to choose between prayer and action — Christians know that's a false dichotomy. Rather, we're called to make prayer the root of our action.
Mother Teresa was a great example of this. She spent an hour every day praying before Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. She made it part of the Rule of Life for all Missionaries of Charity. When asked why they took this precious time for prayer, especially when there were so many practical demands on their time and energy, she explained: "because we find that through our daily holy hour our love for Jesus becomes more intimate, our love for each other more understanding, and our love for the poor more compassionate."
For Mother Teresa and the Missionaries of Charity — and for us — there's no choice between prayer and action. Instead, there is an intimate connection between the two.
In the story of Martha and Mary (Luke 10:38-42), Jesus reminds Martha that being with Him is what matters most, whatever tasks we may have to face. The Martha in each of us needs to recognize that being in communion with God in prayerful contemplation comes first. When we have listened attentively to Jesus' words, our solidarity with others will be more profound.
To be missionary disciples we have to remain attentive to these two interrelated dimensions of our Christian journey.
"(W)ithout prayer all our activity risks being fruitless and our message empty. Jesus wants evangelizers who proclaim the good news not only with words, but above all by a life transfigured by God's presence" ("Evangelii Gaudium" 259).
Models of being more
The Catholic tradition contains great examples of men and women who have lived this careful balance of prayer and action.