Evangelization: Getting serious about spiritual matters

by DEACON BILL HYNES
Wed, Mar 22nd 2017 01:00 pm
Deacon Bill Hynes
Deacon Bill Hynes

Lent is well known to Catholics and non-Catholics alike. That makes it a great time to share the Gospel. People understand that it is time to get serious about spiritual matters.

An appealing aspect of Catholicism is its feasts and fasts. The beginning of Lent is a great example. This is the time to mention, in conversations and on Facebook, the Catholic origins of things. For example, Mardi Gras came about when Catholic households had to use up all the sugar and other items that would not be used during Lent. Even the word carnival means "good bye to meat." Paczki Day was another way of having a good time getting the house ready for Lent.

In New Orleans, a city famed for its Mardi Gras revelry, the bells of St. Louis Cathedral ring at midnight. The party is over, the police shut down Bourbon Street, and Ash Wednesday begins. We feasted and now we fast.

This year make it a point to invite your friends, family and co-workers to receive ashes with you. Since it is a sacramental, anyone can receive ashes. Go with them so you can teach them along the way. Invite new people to join you for ashes this year, not just the group you go with every year. It is an opportunity to talk about sin and the saving power of Jesus Christ. Hearts are softened on this day, making it a perfect time to evangelize.

Often our practice of fasting is questioned by the secular world. But here is a pro-tip from the Evangelization Office: when people question things, you know they are interested. Even if their questions seem negative, something grabbed their attention. That is your opportunity to evangelize.

For example, you might hear people question why there are Church "rules" about Lenten fasting. Why can't we do whatever we want for Lent?

Answer: Jesus wanted us to be together, right? We are a Church after all. A team. We are not lone rangers, but in communion with Jesus and one another. The Church gives minimum rules so that we can have a little togetherness in our Lenten practices. The whole Catholic world is fasting on certain days, in certain ways, because we are together in Christ. You can always do more if you wish.

Once you have explained it that way, the negativity often drops away. You have broadened their understanding of Church and Lent. More importantly, you refocused them on Christ, not on the rules.

Lent is also the time to invite people to Stations of the Cross with you. This short profound meditation might be the perfect way to bring someone new to Jesus. For fallen away Catholics, Lent is the time to rediscover the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Invite people to come with you and remind them how to receive the sacrament.

Make a resolution to reach out to the fallen away and non-believers this Lent. Think of yourself as the embracing arms of Jesus on the cross.  

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