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Crisp Sheets and Missionary Discipleship

When I was a kid, I used to hate making my bed. To me, it just didn’t make any sense. Why am I making my bed when I’m just going to mess it up again? Is someone coming over? If not, why bother?

But, despite my protests, I had to make my bed every day. My mom required it. I’m sure she had her reasons, and she may have even told me what they were. But, the only one I remember is, “Because I said so” – and that made me resist even more.

Do as I Say

As an adult, I’ve tried to avoid using “Because I said so” as a reason for anything. I thought I was doing a good job of that, too. But, recently, a friend brought me to a surprising revelation: I use that argument in my work all the time.

“You are obligated by your Baptism to proclaim the gospel” – ever heard that one before? I say it on a regular basis, and the Church does, too! For example, from the Code of Canon Law:

“Since the whole Church is by its nature missionary and the work of evangelization must be held as a fundamental duty of the people of God, all the Christian faithful, conscious of their responsibility, are to assume their part in missionary work.” (Can. 781)

That sounds a lot like “Because I said so,” doesn’t it?

It’s not that Canon Law is wrong. It’s important to acknowledge our Christian obligations. The problem arises when we only talk about evangelization as a fundamental duty, without mentioning the good to be obtained. There are in fact many goods to be had when we evangelize, both for the evangelizer and the one being evangelized.

What’s in It for Them

The stranger receives many goods when he hears and receives the gospel: the remission of sins; the hope of resurrection and eternal life; a changed life devoted to the good and the salvation of others. All of these benefits are promised by Jesus to anyone who professes and lives by faith.

There are also more natural and human needs that are met by evangelization. When someone receives the gospel, he receives friendship, community, and membership in a family. He receives peace, joy, and the reason for living. He receives Love Itself.

These are all tremendous goods, and loving your neighbor means striving to give them to him.

What’s in It for Me

When you evangelize, you step into your authentic identity.

We tend to think of missionary discipleship as something you work up to. You start as a seeker or a lukewarm Christian. Then you commit your life to Jesus. Then you become a missionary disciple, someone who is bringing others into that same committed life. But, in Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis makes a startling statement: we are, all of us, already missionary disciples.

“In virtue of their baptism, all the members of the People of God have become missionary disciples (cf. Mt 28:19). All the baptized, whatever their position in the Church or their level of instruction in the faith, are agents of evangelization …” (no. 120).

Isn’t that amazing!

According to another Francis, St. Francis de Sales, the key to holiness is to be who you are, and be that well. This is what evangelization does for the evangelizer. The discipleship path is not about becoming something you aren’t already. It’s about leaning into a present reality. It’s about being who you are, and being that well.

Of course, there’s also much more at stake. Evangelizing strengthens your faith. It grants you the assurance that you are following God’s will. It brings more hope, love, and joy to your life, since these are only increased as they are given away.

Come to think of it, evangelization is as rewarding as a perfectly-made bed at the end of the day. Perhaps my mom was on to something, after all.

 

Nicholas Hardesty

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