“And in that region there were shepherds out in the field,
keeping watch over their flock by night.
And an angel appeared to them
and the glory of the Lord shown around them,
and they were filled with fear” (Lk 2:8-9).
When the shepherds see the angels proclaiming Jesus’ birth, their first reaction is fear. Their second impulse is to go to Bethlehem and tell everyone what they have seen.
“Evangelization” is a scary word for a lot of Catholics. It brings to mind images of a fiery, preachy, soap-boxy kind of sermonizing with which most of us can’t identify. These reservations and preconceived notions about evangelization have always made me like Lent. From ashes on Ash Wednesday to giving things up in the weeks before Easter, Lent has always been a time when talking openly about my faith has felt easier and more comfortable.
In the same spirit, Pope Benedict XVI last year created a special pontifical council that invites Catholics into what he has called the “New Evangelization.” In an increasingly consumer-driven society, the pope is encouraging all of us to “surrender to the grain of the mustard seed.” In other words, we’re called to start small, in our own communities, to effect global change in grass-roots sorts of ways.
Offer real-world examples
This Advent, be the shepherd. Shake off the fear of evangelization and combine the parts of Lent and Pope Benedict’s call that give us permission to stand up for our faith. If you choose to resist pieces of the commercialization of this holy season, wear that resistance proudly.
When you get pressure for choosing to forgo the office cupcakes, tell colleagues that you “gave them up for Advent.” Listen to the conversation that comes next. It’s an opportunity to spread the message of consuming less and giving more (and more meaningfully). When asked if you’ve finished your Christmas shopping, maybe mention the fact that you have opted to sponsor a family in need — be sure to mention that it’s motivated not only by secular generosity, but because you’re responding to a call from the pope to let the Holy Spirit work through you to touch the lives of others.
Perhaps most importantly, listen to how people respond. You’d be surprised at others’ reactions when you open the conversation to real-world examples of how our Catholic values play out in our everyday lives.