"Woe betide me if I do not proclaim the gospel!" (1Cor. 9:16).
These words of St. Paul urge us as Christians who have a duty to bring the Word of God to others because Evangelizationis the nature ofthe Church.
While visiting the classrooms, I meet many students whose parents are non-practicing Catholics and teachers who are not passionate about God. Therefore, these students are missing out on the experience of God’s love, and are losing the opportunity to know God’s love. Also, they may not realize what they are missing because their short-term needs are being filled by the distractions of materialism, the age of fast living and instant self-gratification.
While visiting patients at the hospital, I see some among the weak and the sick who are yearning for God’s love but do not know how to approach God. They have been away from the practice of the faith and feel distant from God. Besides, many patients are hesitant to receive the sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick because they think it will be their last rite.
When working in the parish, I see that there are many parishioners enrolled in the parish, but very few people attend Sunday Liturgy. Some Catholics go to Mass as a thing they have to do, instead of being in communion with their brothers and sisters who are experiencing God's immense love.
I was born in a country with 117 Martyr Saints, plus Blessed Andrew Phu Yen, in Vietnam.
Most of them are missionaries from Europe. They heroically sacrificed their lives and sowed the seeds of faith for us. We are proud of them because by their witness, we have strong faith. Through their examples, I became a missionary here in Canada.
Since my Ordination to the Priesthood on June 28, 2013, my experience in pastoral ministry reveals to me the daunting task of evangelizing God's People at all age levels. I want to bring the Good News to those who do not know God, and I also want to re-evangelize those who have turned away from God.By re-evangelization, the Holy Spirit can work in their lives and awaken them to recognize God's love and turn back to him. God is waiting for them with opened hands just as the Father waited with lavish love for the return of his prodigal son.
In order to become a good missionary here, in North America, I need to study and explore what caused people to drift away from God and how to bring them back into God’s love. I want to explore ways to ignite people to be excited about God’s tender and loving mercy, so that they will evangelize within their circle of friends and families.
Who can be an evangelist, and evangelize for whom?
As members of the Church,every Christian has the duty to evangelize others.
However, a child who is not baptized can also re-evangelize his parents through his desire to be baptized.
One day in 2012, when I was a deacon, a Catholic teacher had invited me to come to her grade two and three class and talk to her students about the sacrament of Baptism. The students asked me a lot of questions about faith. Then a boy asked me how he could be baptized. I told him first to see me at church; after that I would help him. He said that there was no one to take him to church, so I asked him whether his parents were baptized. He answered, "Yes." I told him to urge his parents to bring him to church. While attending Mass, he had a feeling for what was going on, so, the next Sunday, he took his sister to church. A year later, the two of them were baptized. Notably, this boy has not only evangelized his sister, he has also brought his parents back to Church and to God's love. It is so joyful to see that they are now a very faithful family filled with God’s love, and this happened through the actions of a child.
The story really motivated me to help students in Catholic schools. There are about 11,000 students in Catholic schools in Regina, and while some are active in the Church, and some are not Catholics, there are many nominal Catholics who have not really heard the Gospel. The question remains, "How many of the parents and teachers who are Catholics are actually practicing their faith?" What do students feel when their Catholic teachers tell them to go to confession while teachers themselves do not receive this sacrament? How can Christians evangelize others while they themselves are weak in the practice of their faith?
I see many Catholics away from the love of God, and many students are not concerned about receiving the sacraments.
I think that many Catholic teachers find it a challenge to fully live out their mission to model a strong living faith for their students.The world is changing, but God's love does not change. I ask myself, what is it that is taking people away from God’s love and from the Church? Is it caused by self-reliance, materialism, consumerism, instant gratification, information overload, misinformation, Satan?
Moreover, many teachers today fear teaching Christian Ethics because they haven't had an experience of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in their life. If they don't know Jesus, how can they share Jesus with those entrusted in their care? And, I suppose, busy parents, students and children live active lives with sports, dance and exercise programs that fill their after-school hours. This is a mammoth program indeed.
The world, through the media and the ever-increasing influence of the Internet, is spending a lot of time and effort trying to convince us to seek instant gratification, to consume, and to be self-reliant. We are so overloaded with information that we do not have time for God. In fact, we are being convinced that we do not need God. The pressure to be consumers also takes precious time from the family and the community. At the end, these things are keeping people from God.
Even though people are being kept away from God, I do see people who are yearning for His love. People in the family I mentioned, people in the parish, and people who I visit in hospitals; some of the people I visit in the hospital want to receive the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick, so that God can heal them both physically and spiritually. I am encouraged when I see people who have been away from God wanting to return to God through the sacrament.
Our Holy Father, Pope Francis has called last year, a Year of Mercy for Catholics to open the doors of their hearts and to welcome people back to the Church. I think that parish priests and Catholic teachers need to work together to connect their mission. How do we encourage parents and teaching staff to put into practice their living faith?
I want to do something to help them, but I am only a cog in this fast moving world, and I also have lots to learn. So, I need to have many collaborators in evangelization. We can start small - planting the seed with small faith groups at school within the teaching staff and hopefully including a parent or two. We need to encourage one another - keeping positive, gentle and loving.
I trust in the help of the Holy Spirit, and I believe that God is in charge of evangelization. I hope that we will bring more people to experience God's love. God knows our needs much more than we can imagine.
"For God so loved the world, that he gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life." (John 3:16)
Yes, Lord! You told us what we are to do. You told us to teach all nations, baptizing them and working with you to build up the reign of God on earth. However, I find it difficult to bring people to you. Please help me, Lord. With you, O Lord, I believe that all things are possible.