We are blessed at Masses throughout the Easter season to listen to the great works of the Holy Spirit and the stories of evangelization contained in the Acts of the Apostles. In reflecting on that privileged time, we are inspired and challenged to live up to the standard of the Early Church’s faithfulness. In recalling the opposition that the Apostles faced, we cannot help but see the similarities to our own time. Now, as then, we live in a world hostile to Jesus Christ and the Gospel, and we are called not to cower away from this reality but embrace this apostolic moment. We are called to be ready to share the Gospel with all those who have not been rescued by our Lord, Jesus Christ.
While the stories that we receive in the Acts of the Apostles highlight great heroism and extraordinary faith on the part of the early Christians, these are not the only means by which our faith is spread. For most of us, we will likely never preach a message, as St. Peter did, and see 3,000 people added to the Church in one day (Acts 2:41). All of us, however, are still responsible and empowered to share the message of the Gospel with others.
In his apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis shares with us a simple method of evangelization which he says, “falls to each of us as a daily responsibility” (EG 127). He describes it as follows:
“It has to do with bringing the Gospel to the people we meet, whether they be our neighbors or complete strangers. This is the informal preaching which takes place in the middle of a conversation, something along the lines of what a missionary does when visiting a home. Being a disciple means being constantly ready to bring the love of Jesus to others, and this can happen unexpectedly and in any place: on the street, in a city square, during work, on a journey” (EG 127).
These daily opportunities are key expressions of a church that has an apostolic mindset. While these encounters may not be as remarkable as what we see in the Acts of the Apostles, I can assure you that they are every bit as effective if it is the Lord who is at work within and through us.
Very often, we underestimate people’s need for God’s love, strength and presence. The best way to discover their need is through genuine conversation and interest in their situation. Commonly, those who we encounter open up to us about their hopes and joys, and even their concerns and hardships. In these moments, there may be an opportunity to invite the Lord into their situation through our testimony, encouragement and prayer. Pope Francis writes:
“At times the message can be presented directly, at times by way of a personal witness or gesture, or in a way which the Holy Spirit may suggest in that particular situation. If it seems prudent and if the circumstances are right, this fraternal and missionary encounter could end with a brief prayer related to the concerns which the person may have expressed. In this way they will have an experience of being listened to and understood; they will know that their particular situation has been placed before God, and that God’s word really speaks to their lives” (EG 128).
As Catholics rooted in Christ and filled with the Holy Spirit, we are eager to spread Jesus’ mission and bear fruit so that everyone might encounter the Risen Christ and receive eternal life. I am grateful for this subtle method of evangelization that Pope Francis teaches us and am also grateful for all of the ways Jesus is teaching us to bear fruit in this apostolic age.
This month, we launched the Archbishop’s Catholic Appeal which supports so many ministries that help both the faithful and those yet to encounter and believe to become rooted in Christ, to spread his mission and bear fruit for the Kingdom. Please consider giving to the appeal to support these efforts that the Lord is raising up and blessing in our Archdiocese. I am so grateful for your generosity.
Finally, I encourage all of the faithful to listen attentively to the Lectionary readings in this blessed season of Easter and to read nos. 127-129 of Pope Francis’ exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium. Allow yourself to be challenged by Pope Francis’ words and reflect upon the mission Jesus has given to you. All of us are responsible for evangelization. We must remember that in ascending into Heaven, Jesus has given us the most precious gift of the Holy Spirit, who not only makes us responsible but empowers us to accomplish this great task for the glory of the Father.
We are called by our Savior to abide in relationship with him if we want to accomplish anything. That connection and dependence extends not just to discipleship for our neighbors, but also a calling to share our fruits with our neighbors. I ask that you make a gift to the Archbishop’s Catholic Appeal to share that fruit and support more than 40 archdiocese ministries that are creating disciples rooted in Christ. Please visit archden.org/GiveNow.