Evangelization is simply 'sharing something good and helpful to other people,' speaker says


In the homily for the Mass to kick off the 2015-16 school year, Archbishop Robert J. Carlson quoted Pope Francis from "Evangelii Gaudium" ("The Joy of the Gospel").

"An evangelizer must never look like someone who just came from a funeral," Pope Francis wrote. "May the world of our time ... receive the good news not from evangelizers who are dejected, discouraged or anxious, but from ministers of the Gospels whose lives glow with fever, who have first received the joy of Christ."

Educators in Catholic schools and in Parish Schools of Religion are among the evangelizers in the Archdiocese of St. Louis.

"It's really true," Archbishop Carlson said. "We need to bring the joy of Jesus Christ into the classroom every single day. ... We need to bring our Catholic faith into schools every single day (and) share the joy of our faith."

Right after the Mass, Aug. 10 at St. Francis Xavier Church at St. Louis University, teachers and administrators of the archdiocese experienced such an enthusiastic evangelizer in Edward Sri (rhymes with 'three') of Augustine Institute of Denver. A theologian, author, speaker and regular on EWTN, the Augustine Institute professor of theology and the vice president of mission outreach delivered the keynote for the Catholic Education Office's Religious Educational Institute, which followed Mass.

For more than an hour, Sri entertained the packed house at the College Church, modeling that about which he spoke -- The Joy of the Gospel: Rediscovering the Heart of a Disciple. The title was taken from his book -- "Pope Francis and the Joy of the Gospel: Rediscovering the Heart of a Disciple."

A Chicago native, Sri connected with the St. Louis crowd by offering the Chicago Cubs as an example of the average Catholic. Describing himself as a "realistic Cubs fan," Sri called average Catholics "Chicago Cubs Catholics," satisfied with mediocrity.

"A .500 record every once in a while and making the playoffs every 10 or 20 years, that's kind of exciting," he said. "But the World Series? That's for really good teams like the Cardinals. That's what we aspire to be."

Same with average Catholics.

"Being Catholic is not just about going to church on Sunday, throwing money in the collection basket or believing all the teachings, as important as those things are," he said. "But are we growing in love, are we growing in service, are we imitating Jesus Christ in our daily lives?

"Our faith isn't just a one-time act when we're baptized in childhood or sacramentalized in childhood, but God is constantly inviting us be one of his disciples. Pope Francis offers a very, very inspiring message that is very challenging.

"The heart of his message is to renew our daily encounter with Jesus Christ. We're not called to be with Him once or twice in our life, but to be with Him and walk with Him every day."

Such discipleship requires no special training. After all, disciples of Jesus had no special training.

"If we really encounter Jesus, if He's really at the center of our lives, if I experience that love of Jesus, I'm going to go tell people about it and I don't need a lot of training to do that," he said. "When you think of evangelization in the Catholic Church, don't think of it as you have to go through a lot of training or go door-to-door or make it really complicated, but it's just sharing something good and helpful to other people.

"Pope Francis says we evangelize because we're convinced that our relationship with Jesus Christ makes all the difference. I've encountered Jesus in my life, not just in the abstract, but it's real to me. I've experienced His patience, His compassion. I've experienced Him holding me together when times were dark, experienced Him helping me to be better, to be more kind and more generous. I just want to share."

The secret is being really available to people around you, not being distracted by gadgets and devices. And also by being authentic, which the archbishop stressed to the educators in his homily.

"Young people are very sharp; they can spot a phony a mile away," said Archbishop Carlson, who offered a prayer for educators as evangelizers. "Jesus, come into my heart and life so I can share you."

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