My ministry, Spirit Filled Hearts, has launched a new initiative, Jesus Thirsts for America, which we will hope will lead many to the Church. We gather in dioceses throughout the country for Mass with the bishop, prayer & adoration, music and messages by talented Catholic speakers. Our most recent gathering was in the Diocese of Fresno, our celebrant and one of our keynote speakers was the diocesan bishop, Bishop Joseph Brennan, and we were pleased that many thousands participated. It is our hope now that they become active (or more active) in their local parishes, and inspire many others to embrace our Catholic faith.
I’m pleased to spearhead this new initiative because, in this time of Eucharistic revival, it is at the heart of what our Church calls us to do: be evangelists for Christ!
I often like to point out three chapters in Scripture: Acts 1, Matthew 28 and Mark 16. The scene in each case is Jesus, ready to ascend into heaven. He is giving His disciples—and us—last-minute instructions, the most important things for us to do when Jesus is not with us.
When we go away on vacation or a trip, we give instructions to someone to watch over our place, animals, etc. We are very specific. Jesus is giving His final instructions and was very clear what He wanted us to do:
“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit.” (Matthew 28:19)
Good news! That is the Greek root of the meaning of the word evangelization. What is this good news? If we were to ask 100 Catholics to define the “good news” of Jesus Christ, what would we hear?
In my experience, most do not know or even remotely understand the enormity of what God has done for us. The well-known Scripture verse from John’s Gospel is a good place to begin:
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
You have been chosen to deliver this message to the world, starting with those people God has put in your life: your family, spouse, children, grandchildren, friends and co-workers, those you encounter in business, school, life situations, etc. Everyone!
Delivering the Good News
When are we asked to deliver this “good news?” Paul is very clear in his letter to Timothy.
“Proclaim the word; be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching.” (2 Timothy 4:2)
I love this verse because it says it all for me. We are not to focus on the right timing to share God’s good news, but to do it early and often. We have been chosen.
“It is not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you.” (John 15:16)
In the Second Vatican Council documents, we are reminded that “evangelization is at the very heart of the church.” Saint John Paul II told us, “I sense that the moment has come to commit all the church’s energies to a new evangelization. No believer in Christ, no institution of the Church, can avoid this supreme duty: to proclaim Christ to all peoples.”
Pope Benedict XVI called a Synod, a gathering of 250 Bishops from around the world, in October 2012 to declare the “Year of Faith” and better define the “New Evangelization.”
He described his definition of this new evangelization: “Directed to the whole world, its many cultures and peoples, to those who have never of Christ and those who have heard the good news but forgotten what it means to follow Christ.”
When we think of evangelization, we often picture ourselves in foreign lands—such as my missionary trip to Indonesia. However, what the Church wants us to understand is that evangelization means reaching out to those closest to us. Every minute of every day may bring an opportunity to bring the Good News of Jesus Christ. Are you up to the challenge?
Saint Paul was very clear in respect to the importance of our responsibility in sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ:
“And so I solemnly declare to you this day that I am not responsible for the blood of any of you, for I did not shrink from proclaiming to you the entire plan of God.” (Acts 20:26-27)
I think about these verses all the time and the tremendous responsibility we have for each other. A responsibility made even more real to me in a dream.
In the dream, I saw Jesus calling to me in the middle of a beautiful green meadow. He called over to me, embraced me and said, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”
He then gestured to the horizon, and I saw many people walking to me. There were at first 50, then 100 and finally, literally thousands coming up to me and thanking me for telling them about the saving power of Jesus.
I remember saying to these people, “I don’t know who you are.” They explained that on a certain date, I proclaimed the Good News of Jesus Christ at an event, and the person listening told another person, who told another person who told them. This ripple effect is exactly how it works!
I remember in the dream feeling great joy! However, the dream contained a warning and a second part. A small group of people with their heads down walked up to me and said, “You knew the Good News of Jesus Christ and chose not to say anything to us.”
This part of the dream shook me to the core. I realized it is not doing people a favor by remaining silent. We are so concerned about “offending” people. The biggest offense is silence.
The Holy Spirit Working Through Us
I understand I don’t have the responsibility to “save” people. Only Jesus saves. My responsibility is to tell people about the saving power of Jesus Christ.
Saint Paul is clear what we are to do:
“But how can they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone to preach? And how can people preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring [the] good news!’ Thus, faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:14-15, 17)
We have not been left orphans. We have been given the power of the Risen Christ and the Holy Spirit.
“The kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power.” (1 Cornithians 4:20)
How do we get this power? By wanting it, asking for it and expecting to receive it.
“Ask and you will receive; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” (Luke 11:9)
Jesus told His disciples and us we will receive the power of the Holy Spirit:
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
Great miracles of evangelization will occur when we expect the power of the Holy Spirit will work through us. We see great growth in the Catholic Church where the gifts of the Holy Spirit are flowing freely. In Brazil, there are 127 million Catholics. In Africa, the gifts are common and places such as the Congo, Nigeria and Uganda are exploding with new members! In the last 100 years, the Catholic population has grown from 1% of the region’s population to 21%. In fact, Africa is now providing vocations to many places in the world.
Our purpose in life is to make a difference, to build up the Body of Christ. We remember the Baltimore Catechism in which we are told we are to know God, love God and serve God. Many of you are thinking that you are too busy, aren’t qualified or don’t know what to say. In the next chapter I will give you a step-by-step process of being the light of Christ.
All of my challenges and problems melt away when I am sharing the love of Jesus with other people. It is not about us. It is about Jesus and sharing His infinite and unconditional love and salvation!
Click here to learn more about the Jesus Thirsts for America movement: I Thirst.