The painter paints, the writer writes, the dancer dances. Following this logic, we could say that the evangelist evangelizes. But, is this true? Is it really true that the person who evangelizes is an evangelist? In order to take Christ to others, it’s necessary to experience Him first, since no one can give what he or she doesn’t have, nor love what he or she doesn’t know. Being an authentic evangelist doesn’t come out of the blue, it is the result of a gradual process that takes some time. It is a constant learning from the teacher on the part of the disciple. It’s the fruit of a close relationship, of a friendship. That relationship reflects on the deeds of the evangelist. How can I be an authentic evangelist? How can I give testimony to the world of what I believe and who I am? First and foremost, strengthen your own relationship with the Master; second, make a personal examination, and see if these 7 characteristics reflect your life. If that is the case, you’re on the right track.
7 Characteristics of an Authentic Catholic Evangelist
1. A Solid Faith
This is essential. Without faith, we cannot evangelize. I’m not talking only of having faith in Christ, the Father, and the Holy Spirit, but also having faith in the Church and her Teachings. I’ve heard some people say: “I evangelize, I take Christ to others…but I don’t really agree with the Pope…” How come you don’t agree with the Pope? Are you Catholic or not? We must not only believe what benefits us or what we like; we must believe what God has revealed and disposes for our salvation. Our faith is complete, it cannot be a “cafeteria” faith, where we take only what we like, and leave the rest. This is why the authentic evangelist must say to the Lord: “I do believe, help my unbelief!” (Mk. 9: 24), and renew daily his or her commitment to Christ, to knowing and loving Him more.
“Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen. Because of it the ancients were well attested. By faith we understand that the universe was ordered by the word of God, so that what is visible came into being through the invisible…while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith. For the sake of the joy that lay before him he endured the cross, despising its shame, and has taken his seat at the right of the throne of God” (Heb. 11:1-3. 12,2).
2. Coherence of Life
St. Padre Pio of Pietrelcina used to say: “Do good everywhere, so that everyone can say: ‘this is a son of Christ.’” Ask yourself: Do my deeds reflect Jesus? Can those who see me say that I am an authentic Christian? (Think about it…) Do not think that coherence of life is a heavy burden, something unbearable. On the contrary, it’s what gives us happiness and encourages us to continue walking on the right path. Humility is the key. By recognizing that we are in constant need of God, and that He wants to need us. We cannot evangelize, we are not the true light; but let our mission be the reflection of the Light of God. It is Christ who lives and evangelizes in us. We must ask God for humility, this is the only way we will be a living testimony of Jesus.
“A man named John was sent from God. He came for testimony, to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to testify to the light” (Jn. 1:6-8).
3. Much Humility
Here I want to elaborate on the characteristic I introduced in the previous point. What does it mean to be humble? “Humility is truth,” said Saint Teresa of Avila. And this is very true. We cannot be what we are not. Humility means to be a true child of God. Humility means recognizing that we are sinners. Humility means to know that without God there is nothing we can do! Humility means not to believe that we are superior to others, not believing that we are better than our brothers and sisters in Christ. Humility has a practical effect in every Christian’s life. One is humble by being humble, and this takes some effort, too. In order to be always humble, it’s necessary to practice humility. This is a very important element of Evangelization. I am humble when we know that the work is not mine, but God’s. When we don’t take credit for something we haven’t done. Whose is the Kingdom of God? Whose is the Church? Everything belongs to God, we merely collaborate, we only contribute. Humility always, that’s the Christian attitude.
“Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not for his own interests, but (also) everyone for those of others. Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2:3-5)
4. Faithfulness in the Little Things
Saint Josemaría Escrivá said: “Rest assured that you will usually find few opportunities for dazzling deeds, one reason being that they seldom occur. On the other hand, you will not lack opportunities, in the small and ordinary things around you, of showing your love for Christ” (Friends of God, 8). That’s it. He couldn’t have said it better. The ordinary, what is small in our eyes, is a great opportunity to be faithful in our love for the Lord, For example: when we are on a bus, we can offer our seat to someone else; when we’re standing in the bank line, we can cede our place to an elderly or disabled person… all these are the “small things of life” which, with love, become great things!
“The person who is trustworthy in very small matters is also trustworthy in great ones; and the person who is dishonest in very small matters is also dishonest in great ones. If, therefore, you are not trustworthy with dishonest wealth, who will trust you with true wealth?” (Lk. 16:10-11).
5. A Solid Interior Life
Interior life? This simply refers to the intimate union with Christ. A real, natural, personal, and constant union. Union with Christ? Yes, spiritually speaking, being united with Christ means that He is always present in our life. He really is, but we can increase that union through constant dialogue and conversations with Him (prayer), through the theological virtues (faith, hope, and love), and by actively partaking in the Sacraments. In short, by making God a central part of our life, and doing everything in our hands to strengthen this relationship every day. Careful! Interior life can be easily lost! Yes, when we prefer other things, when we stop going to Mass simply because we are in our comfort zone or when we stop praying. The interior life doesn’t guarantee that everything will be alright all the time; indeed, sometimes the opposite happens, and we’re given more occasions to grow in that love of God through tribulations and sorrows. The important thing is to walk always hand in hand with God, united with Him.
“Love the LORD, your God,c follow him in all his ways, keep his commandments, hold fast to him, and serve him with your whole heart and your whole self” (Josh. 22:5).
6. Lots of joy! (“A sad saint would be a sorry saint.”)
Joy is one of those things that is easily transmitted. Sometimes when we’re sad, it only takes a smile from someone to cheer us up. Joy goes beyond the moment. Saint Francis of Assisi said: “Above all the graces and all the gifts of the Holy Spirit which Christ grants to his friends, is the grace of overcoming oneself, and accepting willingly, out of love for Christ, all suffering, injury, discomfort and contempt,” this is where real joy is. We are not happy when we don’t have any problems or sorrows, but when we’re capable of seeing God with us, that carries our cross and encourages us to continue. Joy is, in synthesis, to know that God, our Merciful Father, loves us. Can anyone aspire to something better than this? No. God’s love is the greatest thing, that’s why we’re joyful.
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice! Your kindness should be known to all. The Lord is near. Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God” (Phil. 4:4-6).
7. Continual Formation (Read a Lot, Write…)
School, colleges, institutes, etc. are institutions that help us to learn. The Church as Mother and teacher also provides us with this space of formation in the Christian field, which we call catechesis. Most Catholics have gone through at least 3 years of catechesis just by attending Sunday Mass. 3 years! And, what have we learned? Hmmm… Sometimes we don’t know how to respond to the questions of our non-Catholic friends. The problem is that we don’t thoroughly know our faith. This is why there exists continuous formation. It’s not enough to know “something” about our faith, we must go deeper. Knowing the Bible, mainly, the Sacraments, grace, forgiveness, love, etc. To read, write, share the faith, talk about it with others, and create study groups are all good ideas to set ourselves up to always be learning more about Christ and his teachings.
“Thus says the LORD: Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, nor the strong man glory in his strength, nor the rich man glory in his riches; but rather, let him who glories, glory in this, that in his prudence he knows me, Knows that I, the LORD, bring about kindness, justice and uprightness on the earth; For with such am I pleased, says the LORD” (Jer 9:22-23).
After having read and analyzed these 7 points, I invite you to make a commitment to the Lord. It’s always good, as a fruit, to commit to do something. Working to improve a defect, being more constant in our ministry, attending and paying attention in Mass, praying for half an hour every day, etc. That way we’ll know that what we have reflected on has a real impact in our life. The Christian life is to constantly be at work. “One who doesn’t progress in his or her spiritual life, goes backwards,” because life is constantly moving and we’re swimming against the current. So, start up and don’t stop walking with Christ, helping your brothers and sisters with joy and coherence of faith, praying always for those who are weak in their faith, and always letting Jesus transform your life, day by day.
This post by Edgar Henriquez originally appeared here for Catholic-Link Spanish, and was translated by Lorena Tabares.