The Purpose of Evangelization is Conversion
What just happened in the first 18 hours in Rome?
I have never been one for small talk and conversations in Rome have been no different. Things matter here. There are people of great influence: movers and shakers, leaders in the Church. My first conversation moments after my arrival was with Henry Cappello, one of those movers and shakers. We did not talk about the weather, which by the way is sunny and warm. We talked about what is going on at the synod, what the Lord saying what we see coming out of the synod. Lots of meaty stuff.
That night we went for dinner with Fr. James Mallon from the Archdiocese of Halifax and Catholic Alpha leaders from around the world(Malaysia, Ireland, US, London, Paris, Canada, Spain). It became a night of celebration, providentially on CCO’s foundation day. No surprise here: the discussions around the table become focused on evangelization and the Synod.
The next morning we met with Ralph Martin for a cappuccino. I was hanging on each of his words as he shared with us the mood in the synod.
My heart and mind after these three encounters was being stirred. It would take a long time for me to share with you all that was talked about. I will focus in on what has been stirring in me personally.
It is agreed upon for the most part in the Church and at the synod that evangelization is all about the proclamation of Jesus that brings about conversion. Yet, from perspective, there hasn’t been any real significant talk about this aspect. There is a lot of talk about the challenges and difficulties like secularism and persecution. We are hearing a lot about catechesis, sacraments, and liturgy. Cardinal Dolan made a statement early on in the synod:
“confession is the sacrament of the new evangelization”
This quote is receiving a lot of traction and wholeheartedly I agree with the evangelical nature of this sacrament. The problem is that most people who need the sacrament are not open or desiring or being invited to the sacrament. We’ve learned by experience that once they encounter Christ they are now open to the sacrament. Discussions here and around the synod are very important and necessary for the mission of the Church. The problem is that we do not give time and discussion to the important and power aspect of conversion.
As I was struggle with this omission or lack of understanding of evangelization I received the following experience of a lady involved in one of CCO’s discovery faith study. I sat in the café experiencing uncontrollable emotions. In this story lies the answer to successful evangelization:
“Every Friday I leave feeling so free, so peaceful. When I manage to think about God I feel like a weight has been lifted. Since last Friday, when you asked us to open our hearts & begin a relationship with Jesus, I wanted to pray the prayer. I did. I raised my head, but I was hesitating to raise my head & shoe you I was choosing Jesus, because I feel its going to be so hard. I went back to Mass for the 1st time in a LONG time by myself this Sunday. But I smiled a lot when they spoke about Jesus in the prayers & readings, because I finally understood who He is! My husband doesn’t believe & I feel all alone, but I chose a relationship with Jesus anyways. I really want more of Jesus.”
Here’s what the faith study leader had to say:
As we continued to chat & I re-explained the relationships diagram to her, she said “So, by me saying yes to Jesus, I am bringing Jesus into my home, my marriage, my life with my daughter, everything!”. It was so beautiful to see her come to this excitement, not feeling alone, even though she knows its going to be hard.
She shared the ‘Bridge analogy’ with her husband, trying to get him to understand what she’s been experiencing but after sharing the Ultimate Relationship (a clear gospel presentation booklet) with her today she said ‘that’s what I need to show him! This is perfect!”
So she’s going to share the Ultimate Relationship booklet with him. She’s also begun praying with her 3 year old daughter each night and the other day her daughter said “Mommy, can I talk to Jesus anytime? Where is he?” She looks forward to bringing her daughter to Jesus, saying “We’ll go through this together I think”. So beautiful.
The lost person was presented a clear message that was understood. In that understanding there was the ability to respond. The response to the message changed her life. The Church began to make sense and brought her joy. The experience could not be kept to herself so she dropped her bucket like the women at the well and shared it with the ones she loved. Her child also responded and she has great expectations for her husband.
This testimony grew my convictions that the evangelization has a simple but clear purpose: conversion. It is the natural response to an encounter with Christ. Let us continue to do what we have been doing.