Evangelisation in parish life – priority of personal encounter with Christ
Visitors have commented that we are very good at welcoming and it touches the hearts of those who come to our church. Our aim, though, is not only bringing people into the parish, as we do not belong to a “club”. Although we really need to build on our big strength – a welcoming attitude – our priority is to convey the message of the love Christ towards us. Our personal encounter with Christ must come first. We desire to help one another to recognise the riches of life with Christ in His Church. “God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe” (1 Cor 1:21). We admire what has been happening: God comes to us and saves us. A very personal testimony of St Paul is very instructive to all of us who desire to take care of others, “When I came to you, I did not come with eloquence or human wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I decided that while I was with you I would forget everything except Jesus Christ, the one who was crucified. I came to you in weakness with great fear and trembling. And my message and my preaching were very plain. Rather than using clever and persuasive speeches, I relied only on the power of the Holy Spirit. I did this so you would trust not in human wisdom but in the power of God.” (1 Cor 2:1-5)
One of the main images of evangelisation is the biblical scene when the Archangel Gabriel came and declared unto the Blessed Virgin saying, “Hail Mary,” and she conceived of the Holy Spirit. Because of this, The Angelus and the Rosary are important tools in the hands of those who are sent on a mission. Evangelisation is participation in Angel Gabriel’s mission to announce the presence of Christ to another person, to the whole community, to our culture and customs, as well as to other cultures and customs. The heartbeat of the repeated prayer Hail Mary and our unity with the angels are the beginning of the approach to mission. Only then, the basic and precise announcement of the Word will come and the moment of spiritual conception will happen.
The first disciple is Our Mother, the Star of the New Evangelisation. Her gentleness and her love bring an unspeakable desire for Christ, her availability, and the capacity to love enemies. Consecration to her is the starting point of evangelisation.
Another picture of evangelisation can be found in the biblical scene of the meeting of the Lord with the Samaritan woman at the well, and a similar meeting with Zacchaeus, both of which have the same focus: God’s words sown in the heart. The gentleness, humility, simplicity, attentiveness, joy and compassion of the Angel Gabriel, Our Mother and the Lord are essential attitudes of all those who desire to belong to the care mission of the parish.
Evangelisation is not beyond the capacity of the disciple of Christ. It is a basic expression of the very nature of being a Christian. Evangelisation, then, is every possible action which refreshes, sparks and enlightens our minds, hearts and wills to move us towards Christ who is present in the Church (in Scripture, the sacraments, and above all in the Eucharist). Anything might awaken a desire to come to Christ – evangelisation, therefore, has a very wide spectrum. This might be in smiling to another, or lighting candles before Mass in a prayerful manner. The Lord Himself will touch hearts in this way. Evangelisation is about how we carry out our day-to-day activities, because it is about the way we live our lives. It has little to do with psycho-socio-technical and organisational improvements. None of these improvements can redeem us, only Christ Himself; but the love of one another, with visible generosity and forgiveness, and genuine passion for Christ in the Scripture, sacraments and teaching of the Church.
However, on a parish level, all initiatives need a strategy. We cannot simply set up evangelisation activities without thinking about what happens after the faith is awakened. Evangelisation requires revision of the whole parish structure. We need to see that the Church, as the whole Body of Christ, is on a mission, which includes administration and the most basic duties in parish life. All of parish life is connected. The process of evangelisation is closely linked with formation; the deeper healing of souls and often emotional life; and celebration (celebration of the Holy Eucharist as well as service and enjoyment of life: social time together). The process of evangelisation is also related to charitable activities. One nourishes the other. Deeds of mercy bring flavour to evangelisation, and evangelisation brings the meaning of charity, as we do not proclaim human compassion and mercy only, but above all Christ’s compassion and mercy which, although similar to human compassion, reaches deeper into hearts with divine grace to change life.
~ Fr Stan, Earley.