As followers of Christ, we are called to Evangelize. It serves us well then to remember that the first and greatest evangelizers were the Apostles. We see this throughout the Acts of the Apostles. What great models to follow. In today’s first reading, Phillip greets the Ethiopian eunuch who tells him that although he is reading the scriptures he can’t understand them unless someone interprets them for him. Phillip then evangelizes by interpreting the scriptures until the Ethiopian asks to be baptized. In the Acts, we see many examples like this of the Apostles reaching out to spread the Word, to spread the Good News.
Isn’t it a wonder to think of this small group laying the foundation in the early Church so that the Church was able to grow until it now reaches the entire world? How was this group able to evangelize so effectively? And how can we best follow in their footsteps?
In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells the Apostles and us, “I am the Bread of Life.” As Christians, this is the basis of all that we do, not just at Mass, but in every action of our life. This is the core of who we are, not just in prayer, but in all our daily activities. We cannot evangelize until we fully absorb this truth. Any good salesperson will tell you that you have to believe in a product in order to sell it. But it took the Apostles awhile to accept this. So throughout the Gospels, you hear Jesus frustration with the Apostles…Don’t you get it? Do you still not understand? Then on Pentecost, they were filled with fire and understanding. And they finally “got it”, then it was, watch out world, here they come! Things aren’t so different today, when we “get it,” then we too can be great evangelizers. In the Acts, Jesus says those who believe will have eternal life. And if you believe, if you “get it” and understand that Jesus is the Bread of Life, how can you not share his message?
What is evangelization? It is believing so firmly in Jesus that our hearts are on fire, and it is knowing that the Spirit of God is with us and it is being Jesus for others, proclaiming the message of the Gospel through our love for God and for one another.
Mary Lou Butler is a long-time friend and partner in ministry to the Passionists in California.