I was reading one of the Narnia books to my son John recently. In The Horse and His Boy the main character, Shasta, goes through most of his young life thinking he is an orphan. He grows up in poverty with a harsh adopted father.
(Spoiler alert) Through a series of adventures he comes into contact with his real father, and in the end realizes his true identity: that of a prince.
Shasta is able to live out who he really is meant to be when he understands and assumes his true identity.
What is our identity as Catholic Christians? What really defines us?
I think that many people grasp the fundamental: that through Jesus’ victory on the Cross and by the baptism he instituted, we are adopted sons and daughters of God.
And our true identity as sons and daughters means that we, like Shasta, receive a role to play; we are called to live out of our identity.
We are called to be holy (like Jesus) and to bring the message of salvation to the world (like Jesus).
I believe that the world is not converted to Jesus because so many of his followers are living in an identitycrisis.
How many of us think that the second part, bringing the message of salvation to the world, is an optional part of our faith? How many of us think that this merely is the role of the priest? Or the uniquely gifted? Or the professionals?
Evangelization is inherent to our identity; if we skip this part, we are not living our true identity, but something less.
Everyone who deems themselves a disciple of Jesus must live their true identity for these reasons.
1) God has asked us to
I heard Canada’s newest bishop proclaim this: evangelization is not our idea! We didn’t come up with it. It is God’s idea.
This couldn’t be clearer than in Matthew 28:19 when Jesus says:
“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”
This is the last action Jesus asks of his followers in the Gospel according to Matthew. This is the Great Commission.
If we haven’t heard this in our life, its like we left partway through the movie and missed the ending. And that was a key part!
If we love Jesus, as he says, we will keep his commands. If you love Jesus you will want to keep this command and share his message with others. That was his idea, and he places a lot of trust in you and me to carry it out!
2) It benefits us
Who do you think is the first beneficiary in evangelization? The person evangelized? No! The evangelizer.
When we commit ourselves and our faithful to God’s invitation, we win. We come close to him by embracing his plan. And he draws near to us to help us in our activity.
I’ve told a story elsewhere about when my wife realized what evangelization really meant, and ended up sharing the Gospel with a coworker. The result I saw in her was pure joy. She was so happy that she told someone about Jesus.
This is the joy of the evangelizer. It is the joy of one who has received a great gift from God and used it.
Really, God could get the message out himself, right? He’s God, he can do anything! He could use a loudspeaker in the sky and periodically tell the whole world the story of what he did for them and invite them to accept salvation.
But instead, he trusts you and me. What trust! What a gift. That’s how much God sees in us.
And when we respond to that, we reap the benefits of his trust: we grow to love him more and to be more like him.
3) It benefits the other
Have you ever experienced life without a living relationship with Jesus?
I have, and in my experience it is (by comparison) awful! Knowing God is so incredible. It is a whole new world.
When I was away from God’s plan for my life I didn’t really know who I was or what my purpose in life was. I felt a deep lacking in my self-knowledge. There was a hole that didn’t seem to fill up.
When I discovered my true identity as a loved son of God, it was like my life came back to life. And I couldn’t imagine living the other way again.
We get to give this gift to another person when we evangelize. When we introduce them to Jesus, we introduce them to the source of life itself.
So, motivated by love for our fellow man, we should evangelize with all the greater fervour. As Pope Francis said recently:
“Remember this well: a life not lived for others is not a life.”
Let us, like Shasta, come into our true identity as sons and daughters of the Father, and embrace all his invitations. Let us evangelize others with a heart like his, and he will fill our hearts and lives with more than we ever imagined.
Josh Canning is the co-founder of U Evangelize. When not playing with his 5 children, relaxing with his wife Lisa or working to bring Alpha to Catholic Churches across Canada, he can be found writing his blog CanadianCatholic.net.