Evangelization in the
Power of the Holy Spirit
By Charles Whitehead
The Church exists in order to evangelize – it’s her essential mission. Why? Because it is a question of people’s salvation (Evangelii Nuntiandi 5 &14). So the presentation of the Gospel message is not an optional contribution for any of us – it’s our duty not only to live it but also to proclaim it. Unfortunately this is something with which most Catholics have been neither familiar nor comfortable because it was not part of our teaching or experience. We used to see it as the work of specialists - priests and religious. Or perhaps we thought of it as an activity for Protestants, rather than something to which every Christian is called through baptism. But things have begun to change, and following the Decade of Evangelization and Pope John Paul II’s frequent references to the New Evangelization, a lot of Catholics are at least aware how important it is to be playing an active part in the mission of the Church. The challenge which now faces us is that of equipping our Catholic people to be active evangelizers in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Everyone is a witness
Everyone is involved
Effective evangelization requires the gifts of every member of the Church. It requires bishops and priests who are willing to teach, pastor, and encourage their people. It requires church communities into which the evangelized will be welcomed, where they will be nurtured, and will grow in their faith through good catechesis and formation.
It requires a laity alive in the faith, willing to be guided and empowered by the Holy Spirit, with an understanding of the truths of their faith, and a willingness to take the Good News of Jesus Christ out into their places of work and recreation. In the closing words of Evangelii Nuntiandi:
"And may the world of our time be enabled to receive the Good News not from evangelizers who are dejected, discouraged, impatient or anxious, but from ministers of the Gospel whose lives glow with fervor, who have first received the joy of Christ, and who are willing to risk their lives so that the Kingdom may be proclaimed and the Church established in the midst of the world".
Can we be those joyful evangelizers, willing to risk everything, without the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives? I don’t think we can. Evangelization without the Spirit will be exhausting and fruitless. So as leaders, the challenge that lies before us is to make sure that our people have been baptized in the Holy Spirit so that they are equipped to answer the call to evangelize. It is to this mission that every Christian is called. We are to be joyful witnesses to what God has done for us, and to proclaim in word and action what he longs to do for every single human being. We are called to go out in the power of the Holy Spirit to talk about the Jesus we know and love.
Everyone needs the power of the Holy Spirit
Although every Christian is called to evangelize, none of us is adequate for the task. We all need the power of the Holy Spirit, and this is why the message of the Charismatic Renewal is so important. We have an essential contribution to make in the whole area of evangelization, because we have learned that the Good News can only be effectively proclaimed in the power of the Spirit. We are those who speak about a "before" and an "after", because we understand that nothing is impossible when we are willing to submit our lives to the Holy Spirit’s transforming power. He is the principal agent of evangelization, and no technique, system, or human enthusiasm can replace his gentle action. If we are open to him, he will equip us to do whatever is necessary. In Evangelii Nuntiandi 75 we find these words:
"It is the Holy Spirit who, today just as at the beginning of the Church, acts in every evangelizer who allows himself to be possessed and led by him. The Holy Spirit places on his lips the words which he could not find by himself, and at the same time the Holy Spirit pre-disposes the soul of the hearer to be open and receptive to the Good News and to the Kingdom being proclaimed.”
When we read these words of Pope Paul VI, it becomes very clear that without the power of the Holy Spirit at work in us and in the hearer, we cannot expect our evangelization to be fruitful. So Baptism in the Holy Spirit is the most effective preparation for a powerful presentation and proclamation of the Good News. Through it we will also be equipped with the gifts of the Spirit, which are so helpful when we are evangelizing. A word of knowledge or a prayer for healing will have an amazing effect in authenticating our message of new life in Jesus. The Holy Spirit is the principal agent of evangelization, and is most active in the Church when she is evangelizing (Evangelii Nuntiandi 75), so we must expect to see the charisms at work.
Whilst we are all called to be part of the evangelizing activity of the Church, the word ‘evangelist’ brings to mind someone with a particular ministry for which they have been specially gifted. We certainly need more full-time evangelists who can proclaim the Gospel to large assemblies of people, but most of us are not called to this. Our calling, one that comes to every Christian, is the call to be witnesses to Jesus Christ. If we are disciples we are called to be witnesses too (Acts 1:7-8), and it is only as we witness that our joy will be complete (1 John 1:1-4). As Pope Paul VI reminded us, modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers. When the Holy Spirit is at work in our lives, Jesus will take his rightful place as Lord and Savior, and there will be no doubts in our minds that we are called to witness that God has called everyone to eternal life in his Son. In our work of evangelization we must of course incorporate and give witness to the full message of the Gospel. This means that the witness of the way we live is an essential component. Do we really believe what we are proclaiming? Do we live what we believe? Do we preach what we live and live what we preach? The witness of life is an essential condition for effective proclamation. Equally important is our concern for social justice, and our challenge to every part of our society which is in contrast to the Word of God and the plan of salvation. Here too we need the power, wisdom, and guidance of the Holy Spirit if we are to have any effect on the values and structures around us.
The power from on high (Luke 24:49) is for everyone
Evangelization and witness without the power of the Spirit is like trying to travel in a car which has no engine. We will not get very far. That is why Jesus said to his disciples that they would receive the power of the Holy Spirit, and THEN they would be his witnesses to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). Before we send them out, let’s make sure that we have equipped those we lead to evangelize in the power of the Holy Spirit. After all, that’s the way it’s intended to be in God’s plan, and the teaching of the Church in Evangelii Nuntiandi reminds us of this.
Reprinted with permission ICCRS March April 2001
Not Just Colleagues But Friends
By Telesforo "Chiquito" Villalba
When they asked me to write this article, I was very surprised, on the one hand by its title, and on the other with the thought: what is the Lord saying to me? I think I understood, perhaps not everything, but with my faith in Jesus the Great Friend, I will share these reflections with you. "Colleague" is a word only used among people of the "world", for example: among teachers, doctors, engineers, politicians, etc. We never say it amongst us servant leaders, or amongst members of the committee. The dictionary says that the word colleague refers to "An associate in an office or in a company.” I think that this is where the differences lies.
Now, first of all we have to remember that JESUS calls us Friends. So we must begin testing the condition of being Jesus’ Friends in our lives, for if we do not have that idea clear, it will be very difficult to deal with others. God always sought to be friends with man. He sought it so much that he even sent us his own Son, and He tells us more than once that we are not servants but Friends. The Lord calls us to be Friends: not servants, nor employees of a company. Therefore we are not mere colleagues. We are called to be Friends, first with Jesus, and as a consequence with each other. How greatly things change when we can truly feel that we are His friends. He teaches us to go wherever the needy, the poor, or the sick, are to be found. JESUS went to eat with publicans; he received the prostitute; he welcomed children; he healed the blind man from Jericho, Peter’s mother-in-law and so many others. He forgave those who a week before had cried "Hosanna, Hosanna, to our king,” and were now crucifying Him. That is a real friend. He became the friend of all men.
a) If we were mere colleagues, we might find what happens in the "world" happening around us: In the "world" the great majority of people want to occupy high positions where they are seen as great celebrities, caring nothing about who they leave behind, or who they have to overtake on the way. Everything is centered on individualism and selfishness: on every man for himself.
b) If we were mere colleagues, everything would have to be done because we were obliged to do it, complying with the rules and taking on heavy burdens (timetables, appointments, etc.), and on occasion, leaving things half done, thereby cheating our bosses or superiors.
c) A colleague is also almost always mistrustful of others. He has no freedom: always complaining about or looking unfavorably upon others.
a) A friend is someone who knows me as I am, and is always seeking my happiness. God’s Word says: "there is more happiness in giving than in receiving.” A real friend seeks the others’ welfare.
b) A friend is moved by feelings of love. He loves and does not feel he is doing so under any obligation. On the contrary, his greatest happiness comes from doing good.
c) Among friends, there is complete trust, knowing that although we live freely, we always choose to share both good and bad things, leaning one on the other, without expecting anything in exchange.
These are just a few of the characteristics from which we can appreciate the difference between colleagues and friends.
He is the example, the model, that we must follow. Some could say that that is very difficult, that it is not for me. But I want to tell you that this is the great call. If we call ourselves Christians, and if on top of that we are Servant leaders, members of the Committee, we cannot pretend not to hear. We have to be as He is and do as He does. And for this we are not alone. On the contrary, we have His help, the help of His Holy Spirit, who He sent so that we would not be alone, to give us new life, the strength we need, and to be everybody’s friend, indiscriminately, making no distinctions. That way we can be like JESUS. I want to proclaim this to all our readers: let’s put up no barriers, let’s reject selfishness, individualism, differences of every kind, and let’s focus our attention, our gaze fixed on the Great Friend, who was able to give his life for each of us, and let’s ask His help to be not colleagues but everyone’s friend. JESUS is our Friend, and we must all be friends.
Reprinted with permission ICCRS Newsletter November December 2000