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Pope gives direction with evangelisation

ARCHBISHOP MARK COLERIDGE sheds some light on the best ways for Catholics to evangelise.
EVANGELISATION’S a big word for something that, at its heart, is very simple.
It simply means passing on to others the good news that we have received from Jesus himself.
Now Jesus is the good news, He gives us himself and He expects us not just to sit on the gift that we have been given but to pass it on to others, because He knows there’s a lot of bad news out there.
We live in a world where we seem to drown in bad news. Even in the Church – lots of bad news.
But at the heart of the Church there blazes the good news that we are called to pass on to others who are at risk of drowning in bad news.
And God help the Church if we either cease to hear the good news, hear only the bad news, or if we fail to pass on to others the good news that we have received – in other words, allow them to drown in a tide of bad news.
So in every age the task of the Church has been to pass on the good news.
The Church doesn’t just have a mission, the Church is a mission. And a Church sitting around just looking and talking to each other, circling the wagons, a kind of glee club – that’s not the Church of Jesus Christ.
We can say that with absolute certainty.
The Church of Jesus Christ is what has Him living – the crucified and risen Christ – at its heart.
He is the good news and we pass Him on to others who are desperately in need of good news that only He can be and provide.
Now these days we speak of the need for a new evangelisation. That’s because we need to do things differently.
We can’t just put up a sign saying “business as usual”. Things that might have worked well in the past don’t necessarily work well now.
So we have to find new methods, new expressions, new fire in the belly.  
Here I echo the words of Pope John Paul II, who coined the phrase “the new evangelisation” way back in the late 1970s.
He said we need something that’s new in ardour, new in method, new in expression.
So that’s what we need – a new surge of Gospel energy, at a time when we’re under pressure and where there can be a temptation to circle the wagons.
That would be our fatal mistake. We’ve got to roll the wagons out into new territory. Now, that can sound too big for little people like you and me.
But in fact evangelisation begins with one simple decision that I will reach out and not just retire into a private, self-protective world and see my Christianity as something just for me.
So there’s got to be a decision first of all – a decision, in the end, to be a missionary. You might not feel up to it but that’s never the issue.
That’s the call of Jesus. And those whom Jesus calls, He also equips for the task.
You’ve got to make that act of faith as well – that the one who calls you will equip you. Then you have to do something. You have to take a first step.
Pope Francis has just written this letter and he’s summoning the whole Church. It says we are all missionary disciples, all of us.
We used to say that missionaries were those that went to countries like Africa and Asia, that preached the good news to those who had never heard of Jesus Christ. Now, we think differently.  
Now is the time to see, as the Pope says, we are all missionary disciples. But that doesn’t mean that you have to go to the other side of the world.
Just right where you are, wherever you are, you’ve got to make a decision to reach out and you’ve actually got to do something.
The Pope says that the first people to reach out to are the poor, those who are broken, those who are wounded, those that are on the margin. They’re there, they’re often invisible.
At the heart of all this talk about evangelisation and new evangelisation is a very simple question: how can we, you and I, in practical ways reach out particularly to those who are on the margin, who are wounded, who are broken, who are poor. How can we do it in new and deeper ways, into the lives of those who seem to be drowning in bad news?
Decision, faith and simple action. We don’t need grand strategies.     
It’s up to you and me to take simple steps to do simple things and in time, simple things might become bigger things.
But it starts very simply.
It did for Jesus, it did for the first disciples and it does for us. It starts simply.
Let me read to you of some of the words that the Pope has written about what he calls an “evangelising community”.
In other words we don’t do this on our own, we do it together. And I personally think that a lot of the running sores of the Church will remain running sores unless and until we become more missionary, become more an evangelising community and become more what we are called to be.
Here are the words of Pope Francis, and again, they hit the nail on the head as he so often does in the words that he’s written to us in this document called The Joy of the Gospel.
That’s what we’re called to share – the joy of the Gospel. He writes this: “an evangelising community gets involved by word and deed in people’s daily lives. It bridges distances, it’s willing to abase itself if necessary and it embraces human life, touching the suffering flesh of Christ in others”.
“Evangelisers thus take on the smell of the sheep.  And the sheep are willing to hear their voice.  
“An evangelising community is also supported standing by people every step of the way, no matter how difficult or lengthy this may prove to be.
“It’s familiar with patient expectation and apostolic endurance.”
So what do we need to become?
An evangelising community.
We need a decision, we need faith, we need action and as the Pope says we need patience, apostolic endurance.
If we have all of that, Jesus will do the rest.

Written by: The Catholic Leader

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