Do Catholics evangelise?

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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A reflection on Lent: 5th Sunday's 1st Reading

A reflection on Lent
By Christopher Ow

After reading Immanuel's posting of the poem on the divine name, I recalled this reading from Mass on Sunday.

Reading I
Is 58:7-10

Thus says the LORD:
Share your bread with the hungry,
shelter the oppressed and the homeless;
clothe the naked when you see them,
and do not turn your back on your own.
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your wound shall quickly be healed;
your vindication shall go before you,
and the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer,
you shall cry for help, and he will say: Here I am!
If you remove from your midst
oppression, false accusation and malicious speech;
if you bestow your bread on the hungry
and satisfy the afflicted;
then light shall rise for you in the darkness,
and the gloom shall become for you like midday.

And why this reflection all of a sudden? Well for us in Singapore, today (Fri 11 Feb) is both the celebration of Ash Wednesday and the third day of the Chinese New Year.

I could write about shifting the observance of fast and abstinence from Wed to Fri, but i don't think that is a really important issue. And I'd wager that neither Isaiah nor Our Lord would have regarded it as being of great import either.

Living la vida loca -- Nope, Lent is not a crazy life

What I'd like to share are just a few thoughts on Lent, seeing as how we're already in the midst of it.

When I was younger, I always saw Lent as a dreary time of deprivation. There were just so many things that I was supposed to give up. Watching TV, playing computer games, eating meat, etc... Being thus deprived was not a good thing for me. "How could it ever be?", I used to think to msyelf. Lent was always a moody season in my life.

And what better reminder of this than to have ashes smeared on your forehead at Mass on Ash Wednesday, a day of fast and abstinence too!

Good news first or bad news first?

Now at the homily at Mass today, the celebrant preached about the two traditional formulae for the imposition of ashes. "Remember, o man, thou art dust and unto dust ye shall return." and "Turn away from sins (Repent) and be faithful to the Gospel."

In the first, we are starkly reminded of our mortality and fragility and the shortness of our temporary earthly life. What then is the good news? How can going back to dust be good news? If that is good news, I'm not staying to find out what the bad news is!

But when we consider the second formula, we realise that we are being urged to repent and return to the values of the Gospel. But what is this Gospel, this good news? A little more reflection leads to

John 11:25 Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live
And slowly, we begin to see that the real good news is that for us, at our death "life is changed, not ended" (CCC 1012, Preface of Christian Death I)

Adopting the values of the Gospel [as captured by Isaiah in the reading (Isa 58:7-10), and expanded upon by Jesus in his teaching, especially in the Beatitudes (Matt 5)] can make sense to a person only after she has begun to her see life with an eternal perspective.

If death is an annihilation, why be good? Why give bread to the hungry? Why should I be moral when there are clear instances where being immoral will serve my interests better?

Setting aside more esoteric philosophical considerations, what I want to point to is the reality of the prophet's words.

When one begins to treat with dignity and profound respect those around us, made by the same hand of God that fashioned our very selves in the secret of our mother's womb, each one a reflection, an image of the invisible God whom we worship though we cannot see, then by our words and deeds, God is made visible in our midst. Then when the vicissitudes of life deal us a blow beyond our own ability to cope, the community into which we have birthed God, will be the hands that hold us; theirs will be the lips that utter the words of God himself, "I am here."

And when we consider that in Lent, the Church propose three key practices that we are called to intensify, namely: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, then we see that Isaiah was really talking about living Lent.

I am here...

All too often, I find myself assuming that God is already present in my home, within my family, among my friends, in my cell group, in my community...

How often I go wrong in making this assumption. So often where envy has a foothold, God is crowded out. When egos get in the way, God has no space. Where self-aggrandisement is on the agenda, God isn't. And so on... You get the idea.

Yet the Scriptures remind us again and again that God wishes to be with us. He wants to be in our midst, living and dying, crying and laughing, with us.

He wants to answer our pleas. "I am here" is what he wants to say to the needy one. Will we lend him our lips and our lives?

Refiner's Fire

Our lives are a continuous attempt at purifying our hearts. Lent just helps us to focus better on this ever-present need.

And Lent is meant to be a season of joy. This is not simply agreeable sensations. After all it's not hard to see that feasting, hoarding, and self-centredness will lead to more agreeable sensations than fasting, almsgiving, and prayer. So what is this joy and where does it come from?
"Each year you give us this joyful season when we prepare to celebrate the paschal mystery with mind and heart renewed.
You give us a spirit of loving reverence for you, our Father, and of willing service to our neighbor.
As we recall the great events that gave us life in Christ, you bring the image of him to perfection within us."
Preface of Lent I

It comes as a gift from the Father. It is a supernatural joy. A joy that makes loving reverence and willing service to God and neighbour possible and fulfilling.

This gift is what I hope to receive this Lent. And I believe that you would want it to, wouldn't you?

Where do we go from here?

So what am I really being asked to fast from? I don't know exactly what it is yet. And I expect to get an answer in the days to come through prayer.

What about you? What do you need to fast from?

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"I Am"

I was regretting the past and fearing the future. Suddenly my Lord was speaking.
"My name is 'I Am'." He paused and I waited.

"When you live in the past with its mistakes and regrets
it's hard, cos I am not there my name is not 'I Was'.

When you live in
the future, with its problems and fears, its hard, for I am not there. My name
is not 'I Will Be'.

When you live in this moment, it's not hard, for I
am here.my name is 'I AM'."
This was shared with me by a priest, Father Ignatius Huan from Malaysia. I do not know where he got this from but I felt a great surge of peace when I read this. For it shows us that God is the present, not past nor future. And He doesn't want us to regret nor worry. It totally brings a deeper understanding of why He calls Himself 'I AM'.