by Jan Lewis
I had the opportunity over the summer to meet with a group of amazing people from across the archdiocese as part of an advisory group centered on the church’s mission of evangelization.
In the Great Commission, found in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells us: “Go, and make disciples of all nations.”
As the world continues to spin towards greater secularism, we as church are called to reassess our work in light of Christ’s call and to renew our efforts to spread the good news of salvation.
I wondered why the advisory group wanted someone from Catholic Charities to participate in this process of evaluation and renewal. In our very first meeting, I learned that there are five stages or moments in the process of evangelization, and that the very first step is the presence of charity. When translated from Latin (“caritas”), charity means love. So, the process of evangelization starts when a lost soul experiences Christ’s love through the actions of another.
The mission of Catholic Charities, in its broadest sense, is to be the tangible outpouring of Christ’s love to those who are poor, sick, marginalized and abandoned by our society. And it is not just material poverty that we are called to alleviate, but also the poverty of spirit, the poverty of hope and the poverty of love.
It is very easy for those of us who work for, volunteer with, or support Catholic Charities to forget this most fundamental call. As we get swept up in the busyness of all the services provided and clients with unmet needs, we forget to love. We forget that it is in the smallest acts of kindness that we can have the greatest impact.
It is not just the staff and volunteers at Catholic Charities who are called to love. Each of us in our own Christian walk is also called to evangelization — not necessarily to stand on a street corner and preach, but rather to love one another.
When measured against the goal of making disciples of all nations, our individual acts can seem insignificant, but they are not. When you slow down on the highway to allow a fellow motorist to merge, when you thank the harassed sales clerk after waiting in line to make a purchase, when you stop and hold the door for a young mother with toddlers in tow, you are manifesting love.
It is through these small acts of kindness, these manifestations of Christ’s love and charity for all people, that we can begin to convert the hearts of others. We are witnesses of our faith through our actions, both large and small. How can you be a witness today?