Do Catholics evangelise?
by Christopher Yeo
I was sharing today with a protestant colleague the other day and she asked me whether Catholics evangelise. I would like to share with you my reply to her.
"The simple answer is, Catholics do evangalise. However, the way we go about evangelising and whether we actually do enough of evangelising is open to ... well, discussion. The problem is this; people often define themselves by saying what they are not. Thus, Catholics tend to define themselves in opposition to what Protestants do, and the Protestant view is that you have to go around converting people into accepting Jesus as their personal saviour - because that is the only way that they will receive salvation.
Catholics are miffed by the "Are you saved?" question, because their ideas about salvation are somewhat different. Catholics do not believe that people who do not know Jesus will definitely go to hell because they believe that God is much more merciful than that. What of young children and other good people whom have not had the opportunity to understand and accept the Gospel? Surely they cannot be condemned to eternal damnation? Of course, what adds to this is the strong emotional response many Catholics have against the "irritating and arrogant" way protestants go about trying to convert others (based on their own personal experiences or anecdotal evidence or otherwise).
Therefore, Catholics feel that the protestant's way of evangelization is in some sense wrong. Many Catholics therefore prefer to take the view that only if a person shows that he is open to knowing more about Catholicism, then one should begin the process of evangalisation and begin sharing about God.
Another factor that I think influences Catholics' view on evangelization is Mark 7:3-5:
3“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye. Often, we see that our own relationship with Jesus is not satisfactory, or realize that our own friends and family members are in need of evangelization. We then feel too inadequate to go out and evangelise to other people. We feel that we should start with ourselves and our close friends first. We then fall into this belief, perhaps too naively, that God will always send 'evangelical fodder' our way, or that there is always already more than enough people to evangelize to (our 'evangelical hands' are full, so to speak). We should therefore work hard with our family and friends, and not be overly concerned about reaching out to more people.
So, Catholics do evangelise, and often very powerfully. It is just that our style and understanding of evangelization is different.”
Having concluded my analysis and attempted justification of Catholic evangelization to my colleague, I began questioning whether my understanding of Catholic evangelization was indeed justified.
Perhaps while accepting that some protestant may indeed be too arrogant in their attempts to evangelise, we should not react in an immature way and say that we therefore should not reach out to people we don't know and who don't ask.
Perhaps while accepting that we have our hands full administering to ourselves and our friends and family, God might also be giving us the strength and calling us to reach out to people outside of this circle.
Do you think that the popular Catholic understanding of evangelistion is correct? I hope that by asking these questions, it will help us improve our ideas on evangelization and help us be more open to the will of God....
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Do Catholics evangelise?