Intimacy with Christ As a Necessary Part of Evangelization
Pope John Paul II once wrote, “The definitive aim of Catechesis is to put people not only in touch, but in communion, in intimacy with Jesus Christ, only he can lead us to the love of the Father, in the spirit, and make use share in the divine life of the Holy Trinity” (Catechesi Tradendae 5). This has always been one of my favorite quotes because it gets at the essential meaning of what we are doing when it comes to Evangelization. Catechesis and Evangelization are all about relationship; first and foremost about our personal relationship with Christ, and secondly about leading others to a personal relationship with Christ.
The first thing we need to do in order to be effective Evangelists is to cultivate that intimate relationship with Christ ourselves. If we do not know Jesus ourselves how are we going to bring people into communion and intimacy with Him? Pope Paul VI wrote, “Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers and if he listens to teachers it is because they are witnesses” (Evangelii Nuntiandi 41). If we are not striving to live a life that is fully rooted in Christ we are not going to be effective in getting others to. If we do not cultivate intimacy with Christ our words can soon become empty and meaningless. We must first transform ourselves and take time every single day to be with our Lord. We never forget to eat or drink in a day; how is it that we can “forget” to pray? In the Gospel of John, Christ states, “without me you can do nothing” (15:5). These are pretty powerful words. Everything we do relies on this. Have you taken the time to rest in the Love of Jesus Christ today?
Secondly, Evangelization is about relationship with others and bringing them into relationship with Christ. If we want the Church to grow we have to get people to fall in love with Jesus, to be in relationship with him. So often we make our faith into a check list of things that need to get done in a day, a week, or a month. Our faith is not about meeting a series of guidelines and requirements; it is about being intimate with Christ. The way we show others how to do this is (evangelizing) to engage them first and foremost in relationship ourselves. If we want people to hear the good news we must begin by forming a relationship with them. We must take the time to engage a person as a person; we must take the time to spend time with them, get to know them, show them we care for them as an individual person and then draw them in deeper by sharing the Gospel with them. If we want people to fall in love with Christ we must be Christ to them. We must love and care for them as Christ loved and cared for them.
My most effective moments of evangelization have come not from sitting on a plane and talking to someone about Christ or from a random encounter with a guy on the street but from a conversation had at breakfast with someone I had spent weeks or months getting to know and engaging in relationship with them. This is not to say that God can’t work in powerful ways in those other instances but more often than not, the powerful conversion moments God uses us to assist in generally come from people we have taken the time to form a relationship with.
My college professor, Sister Johanna Paruch, used to always say, “It’s all about communio!” It is all about relationship; first and foremost with Christ and then with each other to lead us back to Christ. When we view Evangelization and our Faith from this perspective we can begin to view religion not as a set of rules to be followed but as a personal relationship with the one who loves us more deeply and intimately than anyone else!
Jose Gonzalez is a Religion Teacher at Bishop Carroll Catholic High School in Wichita, KS, where he is in his 6th year of teaching. He has a Bachelor of Arts in Theology with a concentration in Religious Education from Franciscan University and a Master of Arts in Evangelization and Catechesis from the Augustine Institute in Denver, CO.