Ite, ad Evangelium Domini annuntiandum.
Thus we are commissioned at the end of every Mass having been nourished with the Word of God and the Eucharist, we are sent to ‘Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord’, in other words, to evangelise the world.
Evangelism appears to be an alien word in the Catholic world, perhaps because we associate it with orators such as Billy Graham or with street evangelists and this just isn’t our thing. But while the mission of the Church has been to evangelise since the time of Jesus Christ, not all of us are called to evangelise in such grand or public arenas. We are called to do so in our own lives, as Jesus often did.
Take for example the great miracle of the feeding of the 5,000. We often concentrate on the miraculous event, and rightly so because it reveals God’s power and reveals Jesus for whom he is. Read the account in Matthew’s Gospel again: Chapter 14:13-21.
Note carefully what Jesus said when the disciples wanted to send the people away: ‘Give them something to eat yourselves’. You may remember that this miracle occurred after Jesus had received the news that his cousin John the Baptist had been beheaded, so we might think he was distracted and not really concerned about the hungry crowd. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Jesus wanted the disciples to know how to evangelise in practical terms using whatever they had. He told them to bring what they had, a few loaves and fishes, he prayed to his heavenly father, blessed the food, broke the bread and handed it to his disciples to distribute.
Read that paragraph again.
Bring what they had.
Hand out what they had.
In the Acts of the Apostles, we see Peter and John putting into practice the teaching they had received from the Lord. Read Acts 3: 1-30. Peter and John are on the way to the Temple to pray. They meet a cripple and Peter who had neither silver nor gold said, ‘I will give you what I have.’ then in the name of Jesus he took the cripple’s hand, helped him to stand up and he was cured. This miraculous moment of simple evangelisation affected not only the cripple but all those who saw him walking and praising God. One simple act must have sowed many seeds.
The lesson for us is this. We do not need to be a great orator, or to have the courage to go out speaking about Jesus in a public place. We just need to do the little things, to sow the seeds and let the Holy Spirit take care of the rest.
Today, I was in Hereford on my way for a cup of coffee when I bumped into a former colleague who asked what I was doing these days. I said I was writing and had just published a book about the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. At the end of the conversation she asked again what the book was called and I handed her a business card so she could find the details. Now I have no idea what her religious views are, if any, and no idea whether she will just drop the card in a bin or actually look up the details and read the book. But that doesn’t matter. I gave her what I had, the Holy Spirit will see to the rest.
So, this Sunday when the priest or Deacon says ‘Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord’, give whatever you have when the opportunity arises!