The 3 Legged Stool of Evangelization

John 1:35-42

If we were tasked with defining the word "evangelization", our response would probably focus on the process by which a person or persons seeks to spread the Gospel (or knowledge of it) to other individuals, to reveal the good news to others, with the ultimate goal of allowing conversion to take place.  Our definition heavily focuses on revealing what we know about our faith in such a way as to clear the path for the recipient of our message to become connected to their faith.  Each of us by virtue of our baptism are called to bear witness to others and thereby evangelize to them.

 

After looking at today's readings a few times, it occurred to me that for each of us to be more effective at evangelization, it might be useful to look at our calling from a broader perspective.  Our readings point us to a three step process, a “three legged stool” if you will, of evangelization, because when any one of the three components is faulty or missing, evangelization becomes markedly less effective. 

 

The three steps: 1) receiving the Word, 2) responding to the Word, and 3) revealing the Word. Listening to the definition of evangelization that I gave earlier, it places heavy emphasis on the revealing part but only assumes that the other two have taken place.  Let me walk through the three legs of the stool to help us to take the broader view:

 

First: Receiving the Word.  St Elizabeth Ann Seton, who we honor today, once said, “We must pray without ceasing, in every occurrence and employment of our lives - that prayer which is rather a habit of lifting up the heart to God as in a constant communication with Him.” As we grow closer to God, we become more attentive, more ready to receive the word, and as a result, we become more effective evangelizers. 

 

Second: Responding to the Word.  Once we've allowed God to be revealed to us in our lives, once we have received the word, we need to let it grow inside us, just as our baptism plants the seed inside us and the sacraments bring it to harvest.  Our active response to the Word allows us to grow in grace and wisdom.  We need to become captivated by Christ just as his disciples were in today's Gospel.  

 

Andrew was one of them.  He and a friend came to meet with Jesus and both were so captivated by him, that they spent (according to one author I read who broke down the Greek translation) 14 hours with him- 4 o’clock in the afternoon until 6 the next morning. 

 

We may not have the benefit of 14 hours visitation with Jesus in the flesh, but we have many tools at our disposal - the sacraments, our interaction with Christ's other disciples that we meet everyday inside and outside of church, and immersing ourselves in the scriptures. Responding to the word makes us better evangelizers.

 

The third leg in the stool is to reveal the Word, both in what we say and what we do.  Some of the best evangelizing that we can do is simply by revealing Christ in our actions, living the Beatitudes.  And when the opportunity presents itself for us to verbally invite someone to faith, it doesn't necessarily need to be a hard sell.   If you look at our Gospel today and extend the reading into the verses in John that follow, we hear three words that get the job done.  Those words: "Come and See". 

 

When we revisit the gathering of disciples, we see the three legs of evangelization modeled for us. Each disciple received the Word, responded to the Word, and then revealed the Word to someone else.

 

In all these accounts, each of these men had their hearts captured by Jesus Christ, and were then compelled to say "Come and see." Here we've witnessed the essence of evangelization, the capturing of hearts.

 

One of the beautiful things about our Catholic faith is its communal nature,   our interdependence. We're not a "me and my God" type of church.  St John Chrysostom was quoted as saying of Andrew, "After Andrew spends the entire day with Jesus, he does not keep the treasure for his personal benefit, but hastens to share it with his brothers."

 

The question for us today is: How can we manage to improve our game in each of these three facets of evangelization?  Can we be more attentive to the whisperings of guidance from the Holy Spirit, thereby receiving more effectively the Word of God, saying "speak Lord your servant is listening?"  When we hear the Word, can we be more responsive, saying, "I come to do your will"?  And can we take a more active role in revealing the Word to others through our words and actions, saying, "Come and see"?

 

This is what it means to be a disciple of Christ.  A disciple of Jesus Christ is a person who has been captured by the greatness and grace-filled goodness of our Lord, and then is moved to share the faith.  Let us pray today that God will open us up, to fill us with his grace and wisdom, and allow us to shine brightly as a reflection of Christ himself!  

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