Saturday, November 30, 2013

Evangelization for the Timid

I've been thinking lately about my duty to evangelize. In the past I have always left evangelization to people who are gifted with words. Me, I get tongue tied. I get shaky. I allow fear of rejection to keep me from speaking my heart about the church. Even within my marriage, I find myself mute. My husband dislikes hearing about anything pertaining to religion.  My faith gives me such joy that I hope someday to share it with him, but I find myself censored a lot of the time. I know that the Lord is using the situation within my marriage and elsewhere in my life to teach me to find my contentment in Christ alone. Fortunately the Church has given me some sisters in heaven in whom I can draw courage and inspiration!

Saint Faustina was often pained because when she told people about her visions people became suspicious and snide towards her. She sometimes was afraid to follow the directions that Jesus gave to her because of this fear of being made a fool of. Eventually she was counseled thus by her spiritual director, "Sister, God is preparing many special graces for you, but try to make your life as clear as crystal before the Lord, paying no attention to what anyone else thinks about you. Let God suffice you; He alone."  (Notebook 1, 55). Later she was also told, "Sister, let simplicity and humility be the characteristic trait of your soul. Go through life like a little child, always trusting, always full of simplicity and humility, content with everything, happy in every circumstance. There, where others fear, you will pass calmly along, thanks to this simplicity and humility." (Notebook 1, 55). As I read this and underlined it a week ago I thought, "huh, that's true" and carried on.

Then I watched a movie about St. Hildegard of Bingen. St. Hildegard was a mystic in the Church who had visions and locutions from Jesus and who eventually ordered her to build a monastery for the sisters apart from the men's order, despite the conventions at the time and against the will of the Abbot of her order. As I watched and saw St. Hildegard being reviled by religious authorities and called a heretic, I literally said out loud, "thank God I'm not a mystic!" I have to chuckle now not only because this is the opposite reaction we as Christians are supposed to have toward great spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12:31), but because in essence we are all called to be missionaries in the church and will all be persecuted in one way or another for being followers of Christ! A fear of being made a fool of has to be relinquished. We must learn to find contentment in Christ alone to be truly evangelistic. 

It seems a tall order for me, as I've always been a bit of a people-pleaser. I find myself constantly seeking approval from other people, especially my husband! Now that my husband definitely does NOT approve of my faith and in the past has made it difficult for me to be a Catholic (snide remarks, etc.) I have really begun to challenge myself to find contentment in Christ regardless of Oliver's disapproval of me. This has stretched me to realize that I have been hiding my light under the bushel basket, so to speak, to others as well. I have been guilty of not speaking because I don't have all the answers, unintentionally thinking that my words rather than the Holy Spirit will be responsible for reaching that particular person. I have shut my mouth in the belief that God could not use me as an imperfect vessel. What a limiting mind-set. 

My job as a Christian is to plant the seeds, not have all the answers! Pope Francis says it well in Evangelii Gaudium: 

"God's word is unpredictable in its power. The Gospel speaks of a seed which, once sown, grows by itself, even as the farmer sleeps (Mk 4:26-29). The Church has to accept this unruly freedom of the word, which accomplishes what it wills in ways that surpass our calculations and ways of thinking." 

This realization has already encouraged me to engage in a little apologetics this past weekend. Can't say I won an argument or anything, but I stepped out in a way that I haven't before. It also has me questioning my decision to approach Advent veiling in a completely inconspicuous way. Am I doing so only to avoid the questioning gazes of other people? Perhaps I should rethink that one and actually wear an obvious veil. To be honest, I'm questioning my motivation in almost everything. SO MANY of my "in what I have done and what I have failed to do" decisions come from my insecurity with its drive to gain approval of others regardless of my duty toward God.

"Eternal Father, I offer you the body and blood, soul and divinity of your dearly beloved Son, our lord Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world."

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