By Father Joe Kim
Director of Evangelization and Vocations.
“The juice goes out of Christianity when it becomes too based on faith rather than on living like Jesus or seeing the world as Jesus saw it.” This quote from the late Steve Jobs, who grew up going to a Lutheran Church and spent years studying Zen Buddhism, puts into words where many people stand on faith and church in the Silicon Valley today.
The fastest growing religious demographic in our county and in our country are the “nones”—the religiously unaffiliated (in 2010 one-fifth of US population, one-third of adults under 30). Like Mr. Jobs, many leave Christian churches but remain interested in spiritual practices like prayer and meditation. Mr. Jobs’ insight into the “juice of Christianity” helps us who remain committed Catholic Christians to witness to the profound connection between our faith and “living like Jesus.” The National Study on Youth and Religion, a study of 3000 American youth over 5 years, concluded that committed young Christians are formed by adult witnesses who clearly connected faith (doctrine and practice) with the person of Jesus Christ. The proclamation by word and deed of how Jesus Christ impacts my life is evangelization.
For many Catholics, the word evangelize might conjure up televangelists or street evangelizers knocking on your door on Saturday mornings. Some might also confuse the word with Evangelical Christians. To evangelize might seem foreign to Catholics. However, it might surprise some Catholics that Pope Paul VI wrote in a seminal exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi on the necessity to proclaim the Gospel: “Evangelizing is in fact the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity.” He writes that the Church “exists in order to evangelize.” Pope St. John Paul II, Pope-emeritus Benedict XVI and now our present Holy Father Pope Francis has had evangelization as their top priority. Most recently, Pope Francis wrote in his exhortation Evangelii Gaudium: “I wish to encourage the Christian faithful to embark upon a new chapter of evangelization marked by this joy.” The joy he refers to is the joy of a daily encounter with Jesus Christ. Evangelization is the joyful work of every disciple of Jesus Christ proclaiming the redeeming, saving, healing work of God in their lives.
Our diocesan director of faith formation, Wendy Scherbart, puts evangelization as an invitation “to follow the way of Jesus Christ.” Linda Cunha-Ricchio, Diocesan Director of the Institute for Leadership in Ministry, puts evangelization as “experiencing an aha moment with Christ, compelling you to a new way of life, and being so excited about it that you can’t wait to tell everyone you meet.” Deacon Ruben Solorio, our diocesan director of social ministries, says that evangelization cannot happen unless we ourselves are evangelized.
Over the past several months, the leaders of our Catholic Church in San Jose have been discussing how we can evangelize. The discussion revolves around three major ways we as disciples come in contact with Jesus Christ:
Word • Worship • Witness
The Word involves coming in contact with Jesus through Scripture, small faith communities, RCIA, faith formation. Worship involves coming in contact with Jesus through the Liturgy, principally through the Sunday Mass. Witness involves coming in contact with Jesus in the poor and needy. Over the next several months each parish will discern ways in which the Holy Spirit is inspiring their community to evangelize in each of these three pillars of Word, Worship, Witness. In future articles, I will share how parishes are effectively evangelizing and coming back to the heart of who we are as Catholics–joyful disciples who share our encounter with Jesus Christ.
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