Matt speaking here: Marcel from Mary’s Aggies is guest posting here once a week for a month. We’re happy to have him here. Here’s Marcel’s post:
“And seeing the multitudes, he felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and downcast like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest.” (Matt 9:36-37)
There are many reasons why faithful Catholics don’t evangelize, but there is no reason more prominent than fear. Giving in to any fear is an impediment to our holiness. I challenge you to think of a parish where there is no fear. How much would we love? How much would we serve? How often would the truth be proclaimed? How many lives would be changed?
Fear is not consonant with the Gospel. The Bible repeatedly says, “be not afraid,” “have no fear,” and “fear not.” With God there should be no fear, but because we are human we must all battle with fears. Being afraid or anxious is natural, but allowing fear or anxiety keep us from loving another person is sinful.
We Catholics have lots of fear when it comes to evangelization (sharing our faith through witness of life and by word).
-Fear of rejection and hostility – what if they don’t accept me or my message?
-Fear of inadequacy – I am not good enough. I don’t know enough
-Fear of failure – what if I look like a fool?
In addition, many Catholics fear offending others.
In our society today offending another person is commonly seen as the vice of vices. We are supposed to let everyone do as they please as long as they are not hurting others – at least that is what is considered to be tolerance. This is actually an unchristian way of looking at the world. Every sin hurts every other Christian. As the Body of Christ, we are all joined together, with Christ as our head. (1 Cor 12: 26)
Furthermore, in many parts of the public square, religion has been pushed into the ghettos. It is uncivilized to speak of religion in public, because you may offend some people. But, not offending others is not a virtue. Certainly we shouldn’t seek to annoy or offend if there is not a serious reason to do so. But, sometimes there is a need to speak the truth whether it will be well received or not. When Christ commissioned the 72 to preach the gospel he told them they would be received in some places and rejected in others. (Luke 10: 1-12) Paul was lashed five times, beaten with rods three times, stoned once, shipwrecked three times, and went through many other hardships for Jesus. (2 Cor 11: 23-27)
What we must see from these hardships of preaching the Gospel is Christ pouring out abundant blessings upon us. We are blessed because when we are persecuted and thus we are sharing in the persecution of Christ who died for us. In this way we participate in our sanctification and the sanctification of others. “Blessed are they who are persecuted, for righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.” (Matt 5:10-12)
If we give in to the fear of offending other people, we will never speak of Jesus, the Catholic Church or truth. These absolutes are seen as offensive to the ears of many segments of our modern relativistic society. The only absolute the relativist believes in is there are no absolutes. As the parable of the sower in Matt 13 tells us, we are to sow the gospel and let the seeds fall where they may regardless of how it is received – even if another person is offended by it.
Do we see evangelization as something done only at church or on Sundays? Many Christians compartmentalize their lives into neat ways of seeing the world – church for these times and “real life” for others. For some, we cannot even hint at religiosity at work because we are being overbearing. For others, we are not to speak of God in public so we won’t “impose” our views on others. This attitude is erroneous in a Christian world-view. We are to proclaim and witness to Christ in all places and times.
Jesus sought to be accepted as well, but not at the cost of forgetting the good news. Jesus had the human desire to be accepted by others and sought this from those closest to him. But, he was rejected by many, including his hometown. The difference between us and Jesus is he never let his fear lead him into sin or a failure to evangelize.