Discipleship and evangelization. What’s it about and why are we called to these things? Disciples of Christ are called to intentionally be the light of Christ, “salting the earth” with the saving gospel message.
By Deacon Frederick Bartels
12 June 2018
In today’s gospel, Jesus gives us this teaching which includes both a warning and a command:
Jesus said to his disciples: “You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lamp stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” (Mt 5:13-16)
This particular gospel passage has evangelization written all over it! Discipleship and evangelization: disciples of Christ are called to intentionally evangelize and “salt the earth” with the gospel message. In simple terms, to evangelize is to introduce others to the saving gospel of Jesus Christ AND the Catholic Church he instituted on the leadership of St. Peter and the other apostles (see Mt 16 and 18). Evangelization is ultimately the work of the Holy Spirit, whose divine impulses lead people by way of love to a life in intimate communion with Christ and his Church for the purpose of salvation.
To evangelize others is to offer them the everlasting gift of happiness found in Jesus Christ!
It’s important to note that, as Catholics and Christians, if our efforts to evangelize are directed only at helping others to accept Christ in faith while leaving out the Church, then our labor is incomplete and we are negligent in our duties of promoting and sharing the divine faith. There are many reasons why evangelization must include inviting people into full communion with the Church.
The Catechism offers this answer:
Christians of the first centuries said, “The world was created for the sake of the Church.” God created the world for the sake of communion with his divine life, a communion brought about by the “convocation” of men in Christ, and this “convocation” is the Church. The Church is the goal of all things, and God permitted such painful upheavals as the angels’ fall and man’s sin only as occasions and means for displaying all the power of his arm and the whole measure of the love he wanted to give the world: Just as God’s will is creation and is called “the world,” so his intention is the salvation of men, and it is called “the Church.” (CCC 760)
The Church is necessary for salvation. Catholics must never allow themselves to fall into a destructive attitude of religious indifferentism or promote syncretism. Vatican II’s Lumen Gentium explains:
This Sacred Council wishes to turn its attention firstly to the Catholic faithful. Basing itself upon Sacred Scripture and Tradition, it teaches that the Church, now sojourning on earth as an exile, is necessary for salvation. Christ, present to us in His Body, which is the Church, is the one Mediator and the unique way of salvation. In explicit terms He Himself affirmed the necessity of faith and baptism and thereby affirmed also the necessity of the Church, for through baptism as through a door men enter the Church. Whosoever, therefore, knowing that the Catholic Church was made necessary by Christ, would refuse to enter or to remain in it, could not be saved. (14)
The Church is ordinarily necessary for salvation, but that does not mean that visible membership in the Church is required absolutely, without any possible exception. People living outside the visible boundary of the Church can be saved. As Vatican II noted, salvation is possible for those who, through no fault of their own, do not know of the gospel or Jesus Christ or his Church, provided that they follow the directives of their consciences and carry out God’s will as best they can according to the grace they have received (LG 16).
Nevertheless, Vatican II made clear in Lumen Gentium that the Church of Jesus Christ subsists in the Catholic Church (LG 8 § 2), the “universal sacrament of salvation” which is God’s visible instrument communicating his invisible grace in the world (LG 9 § 3; 48 § 2). The fullness of truth subsists in the Church because she is Christ’s body, the pillar and foundation of truth (1 Tim 3:15), infallibly guided by the Holy Spirit and governed by leaders appointed by divine constitution. Through the Church and the sacraments of Christ she celebrates is found the fullest means of salvation for all people.
The teaching and sacraments of the Church communicate the treasury of truth and life to the faithful.
Evangelization, contrary to popular opinion, does not consist of only deeds or living one’s life in a holy and upright way, but also must include the use of language (examples are preaching, defending, exhorting, and teaching the gospel), for our Lord Jesus Christ gave this command: “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation. The one who believes and is baptized will be saved; but the one who does not believe will be condemned” (Mk 16:15-16).
Evangelization is centered on Christ, is Trinitarian in character, communicates the saving gospel and its message of liberation from sin and eternal death, and is of an ecclesial nature (it takes place in the Church and builds up the Church). It’s THE message for all time! To withhold it from others is to deny them the greatest possible gift.
Vatican II teaches in Lumen Gentium that the laity has a special place in evangelizing others due to the “secular nature” by which they are characterized; that is, they “live in the world…in all of the secular professions and occupations” (LG 31 § 2). By virtue of baptism and as members of Christ, they are called to “work for the sanctification of the world from within as a leaven” (Ibid). Every Catholic, as a Christian disciple, has a sacred duty to participate in Christ’s mission of salvation by evangelizing others and bringing society under the rule of Christ. In other words, the laity is in a special position to let the light of Christ shine out, igniting culture with its saving illumination.
Let your light, which is Christ himself, shine before others! Discipleship and evangelization: the two go hand-in hand.
Deacon Frederick Bartels is a member of the Catholic clergy who serves the Church in the diocese of Pueblo. He holds an MA in Theology and Educational Ministry and is a Catholic educator, public speaker, and evangelist who strives to infuse culture with the saving principles of the gospel. For more, visit YouTube, iTunes and Google Play.