Feast of Pentecost
May 24, 2015 10:30am and 12:00 noon
Saint Margaret Parish, Bel Air
When I was a child, my parents would sometimes take us to downtown Baltimore and I remember seeing some street preachers.
These preachers were trying to convert people to Jesus. They would shout and threaten damnation if people didn’t listen.
That is my earliest recollection of what is called evangelization. We hear this word used a lot today even by Pope Francis.
The word comes directly from the Latin word that means gospel or good news. So evangelization means that we bring the gospel or good news to the world around us.
Recently I came across an insightful way to understand evangelization here in the twenty-first century.
One of our Catholic theologians says that evangelization is about naming grace – naming grace. It is not really about bringing God to people, as though God were not already there.
Evangelizers do not so much make God present, but they name or identify or point out how God is already present. In other words, our human experiences can speak to us of God.
The calling to evangelize requires us to be interpreters of everyday human experience. We are to help others to see their life as touched by God.
We do this by looking at life in the light of faith. Evangelization involves looking more deeply into the ordinary to see the Extraordinary—spelled with a capital E.
It is looking at the human and everyday and seeing the divine right there. I think this insight is excellent and is at least the first step of evangelization in this century and culture.
Evangelization: Naming Grace
So, for example, a child is born. And we stand in awe of this new life from God.
We forgive someone, even though we feel that we ourselves gain nothing from this. And we know that the power to do this has to come from God.
We sacrifice for another person, for a daughter to off to college or for a person in need whom we never even meet. And we are aware of a spirit within us that moves us to do this.
We are enraptured by the magnificence of a sunset. And we wonder about the something, or Someone – spelled with a capital S – that is behind all of this.
We find ourselves really loving someone. And we sense that there is mystery to this that transcends human explanation.
Evangelization: The Way of Jesus
So, we need to name the grace of God in ways like this.
That, I believe, must be the beginning of evangelization in this century and culture. We point out and identify God’s presence, already in our midst.
And that, my friends, is the Holy Spirit. It is who the Holy Spirit is and what the Holy Spirit is about.
And then, with this naming done, we can proceed to the next step. We can proceed to lifting up the wonderful way of Jesus and inviting others to that.
So we name grace and make that a conscious experience. And then we name Jesus and make his way a conscious invitation.
And, in both steps, we are positive. We are not like the street preachers I remember as a child, as sincere as they were.
We are not negatively condemning or labeling someone as in mortal sin. We are not threatening with damnation and manipulating with fear.
Instead, we are naming grace and naming the way of Jesus. And in doing this, we are living his way, the way of love and respect for others no matter what.
This, I believe, is the way to celebrate and grow the presence of the Holy Spirit.
This is what Pentecost is about for our culture and century. This is how to evangelize today.