Evangechesis a.k.a. discipleship

Re-read my first two posts and ask yourself, “what’s the difference between evangelization and catechesis?” Don’t feel bad if you cannot come up with a clear distinction between the two. Evangelization & Catechesis are actually two sides of the same coin. Any true catechesis involves evangelization. Vice versa, any effective evangelization involves some catechesis. I once heard someone mention – “we need a new term for these words – something like ‘evangechesis!'”

While “evangechesis’ is catchy, I think there is another term that wraps up these two ideas very well. In fact, I think this term warps up the entire Christian life very well. That word is “disciple.” This word comes with its own baggage and needs some clearification. There were not 12 disciples – those were the apostles. The disciples were not just men – they were men and women from all walks of life. A disciple, simply put, was a person who answered the call of Jesus and followed him.

The word disciples comes from the greek word “mathletes” which literally translates as “learner.” The disciples were students of Jesus Christ. Our idea of a student, though, is vastly different then the concept for 1st century Palestinians. For us, the concept of a student brings up images of sitting behind a desk, taking down notes, memorizing content, and taking tests to prove our intellcual grasp of a certian topic.

The 1st century concept of a student (or disciple) was vastly diffferent. The best way to describe their concept of student is as appenticeship. What’s the difference between a student and an apprentice? A student learns passivly, though didactice teaching methods. An apprentice learns by doing. The goal of a student is to intellectually master a certian topic. The goal of an appenticne to become like the master! We have lots of examples. Jesus was a apprentice/disciple of his step-father St. Joseph. As a child and a young man, Jesus learned the craft of carpentary. He did this not by pouring through books on the subject, he did this by actually doing carpentary, learning the language and terms of carpentary and practicing the methods of carpentary. The goal of the apprentice is to form a new identity, the identity of the master.

So what is the goal of a disciple of Jesus. Nothing less than become like our Master. We are to learn to speak, act, even think like our Master; so much so that those that see us see Jesus Christ himself.

This is why I think the term “disciple” is in many ways more helpful in identifieying a follower of Christ that the term “Christian.” In the early Church, the term Christian carried a lot of weight. It meant something. The word “Christian” derives from a derogatory term given early followers of Chirst which literally meant “little Christs’.” Isn’t that what it means to be a disciple!? In our modern world, though, it seems the term “Christian” is almost synonymous with our modern concept of a student. Anyone can identify themselves as a Christian if they mearly intellectually ascent to the teaching of Jesus Christ. “I believe in God, I beilve in Jesus therfore I am a Christian.” Christianity is not a book to be memorized, or a test to be passed – it is a way of life!

We have many, many modern day examples of disciples of Jesus Christ. I just read a interview with Jim Caviezel, the actor who played Jesus Christ in the movie The Passion. In a very unique way, he has become like his Master in such a intimate way, that those who see him now see Jesus Christ. He says:

“I wear my role with me everywhere now. See, I can’t take my collar off. It doesn’t matter what I wear now. It has gone beyond that. People used to mouth the words, “There goes Jim” and “You can see, there’s Jim Caviezel.” Now they mouth the words, “There goes Jesus.”

check out the whole interview at:<<http://www.bustedhalo.com/features/busted-jim-caviezel/>&gt;

We all might not be actors, but in a very real way we are all called to be clothed in Christ much like Jim. May those who see us mouth the words “There goes Jesus.”

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Gospel is a Verb

If catechesis is the most confusing word in my job description, the word “evangelization” is probably the most misunderstood. Personally, I have to be careful not to throw this word around to much. As Catholics this word makes us feel very uncomfortable! It conjures up some very un-Catholic images – images of men in suits knocking on doors, of soap boxes in town squares, and  pamphlets being shoved in your face informing you that you are on your way to hell. I’m sure all of us have had the uncomfortable experience of being proselytized at moments we least expected it. Surely the Church is not asking us to do these things; and if She were, surely this would be the job of our priests and religious, not a regular Joe-schmo Catholic as myself!

The truth is, the Church has some very strong words to say about evangelization. The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us that the Church exists to evangelize. These are strong words. Let’s make them even stronger. You are a Catholic, you exist to evangelize. Are you still feeling a little uncomfortable with the word? Maybe now you are feel really uncomfortable with the word.

Let’s clear something up now that we realize it is our Catholic calling to evangelize. Evangelization is not proselytizing. Very few of you will need a soapbox in order to evangelize. Feel a little better? In case you are, let me help you feel a little uncomfortable again. The word evangelization comes from the Greek word “euangelion” which is the exact same word we use for Gospel (or Good News). Evangelization is Gospel put into action. Gospel is a verb.

So what does this mean on a practical level? We exist to bring others the Good News of Jesus Christ. The Church tells us that we bring the Gospel to others in two main ways, each relies on the other, each is incomplete (even counterproductive) without the other. We bring the Good News of Jesus Christ to others explicitly, by our words, and implicitly by our actions.

You may be saying to yourself, “O.K. I get that I need to live a good life, but isn’t living a good life enough? It’s not really necessary to go around talking openly about my Catholic faith is it?” The Church answers these questions in no uncertain terms; “There is no true evangelization if the name, the teaching, the promises, the kingdom and the mystery of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God are not proclaimed.” (On Evangelization in the Modern World). This may seem like a high order, but even the simple act of making the sign of the cross as you bless your meal in public explicitly witnesses to others something about the promise and the mystery of Jesus Christ!

We must keep in mind as well, that all our explicit words of evangelization will be of no avail unless our actions implicitly proclaim  the Good News. We should never forget the wise words of St. Francis of Assisi, “Preach the Gospel always, if necessary use words.” We all know the harmful affects of someone who says one thing, yet does another – especially when it comes to religion.

The Archdiocese of Cincinnati, Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministry has a wonderful Faith Sharing assessment tool that I think all of us should take some time to reflect on.

Faith-Sharing Frequency Scale

How many times did you perform the various activities listed below during the past week:

____I tried to establish a friendly relationship with someone whom I didn’t know at all (or not well).

____I visited a stranger (home, hospital, neighborhood or other visit).

____I shared what it means to be Catholic (or Christian) to someone.

____I spoke with high regard of the Catholic Church in general, my own parish, or my parish priest/staff.

____I encouraged someone to turn to or draw closer to God.

____I shared my faith in God with someone.

____I told my “faith story,” an incident when I felt God had intervened in my life.

____I assured someone of how much God loves them just the way they are.

____I assured someone of God’s power.

____I shared what difference Jesus has made in my life.

____ I prayed with someone privately or in a small group (other than family, at Mass, or Parish Ministry).

____I prayed with someone specifically inviting Jesus into his/her life in a more personal and powerful way.

____ I invited someone to go to Mass.

____ I invited someone to go to a Parish Ministry or activity (other than Mass).

____ I encouraged someone to be of service to others.

______________ Total Number of Evangelistic Behaviors Per Week

I scored a 16. How well did you score?