Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Evangelization 101

St. Paul arrives in Athens and sees statues and shrines all around him to pagan Gods.  How does he react? Does he tell them that they are all going to hell? That is the stereotype of Christians. On the contrary, what St. Paul says to them is

You Athenians, I see that in every respect you are very religious.

He acknowledges that they are a people of faith, a people who are seeking the truth, who are seeking God. He then goes on to say:

I even discovered an altar inscribed, ‘To an Unknown God.’ What therefore you unknowingly worship, I proclaim to you.

He doesn't tell them to tear down the altars, and burn their shrines. He deals with them gently, walking them from where they are to where they need to be. In short, he begins by loving them as they are. He speaks their language. 

St. Paul gives us the model for how all of us should approach spreading the good news. We have to start by showing love and respect for the points of view of others. Then look for the seeds of truth in what they already believe. As St. Paul reminds us we are all created by God and therefore there are always many more things we have in common than things that divide us. Then with that base established, we invite them to think differently about some aspects of life, to see the missing pieces. 

Evangelization isn't a program or a plan. It isn't something done by a committee in the parish. At it's best, it is a simple conversation, listening and talking, listening to others and sharing with them how our faith has impacted our lives. We can all do that.