Examination of Conscience for Evangelizers

Written by Kristin Bird on Wednesday, 01 February 2017. Posted in For Parish Leaders, New Evangelization, Burning Hearts Disciples

Examination of Conscience for Evangelizers

“Every Christian is challenged, here and now, to be actively engaged in evangelization. Every Christian is a missionary to the extent that he or she has encountered the love of God in Christ Jesus: ... we are always ‘missionary disciples’. So what are we waiting for?” (Pope Francis, The Joy of the Gospel, 120)

I am an evangelization fraud

It's true.  While I am regularly reading books on the New Evangelization, and am firmly committed to the 'art of accompaniment' as a theory, I’m not very good at it in practice.

Pope Francis has some harsh words for me in Evangelii Gaudium:

“Not to put the word into practice, not to make it reality, is to build on sand, to remain in the realm of pure ideas and to end up in a lifeless and unfruitful self-centredness and Gnosticism.” (EG, 233)

Fortunately, I am not alone.  I ran across an excellent article by Dcn. Charles Fernandes of the Diocese of Hamilton where he admits to also being a "faithful—but sometimes overly passive—Catholic." 

Our own intransigence, our unwillingness to evangelize, is by far the harshest theme in Evangelii Gaudium, the most difficult for me personally to hear.

In his lengthy personal response to reading and praying through The Joy of The Gospel, Deacon Frenandes pulls out a particularly useful examination of conscience for those of us invovled in the promotion, work, and support of evangelization.

 

I have edited and reorganized a few of his points for clarity and brevity.  You can find his full reflection here.

I hope that this reflection will lead both you and me to action: that we will know and share the joy of the Gospel, as a personal and living reality. I hope that you will be inspired by Pope Francis, as I am, to bring about the changes that the Holy Spirit is calling for in our lives, our parishes, and our world. “We are always ‘missionary disciples’. So what are we waiting for?” (EG, 120)

An Examination of Conscience For the Parish

“The great danger in today’s world, pervaded as it is by consumerism, is the desolation and anguish born of a complacent yet covetous heart, the feverish pursuit of frivolous pleasures, and a blunted conscience.” (EG, 2)

Does your parish place any of these obstacles in the way of your evangelizing efforts?

  • The occasionally unwelcoming atmosphere of some of our parishes [where] an administrative approach prevails over a pastoral approach (EG, 63)
  • A concentration on administering the sacraments apart from other forms of evangelization (EG, 63).
  • Lay persons have not been given the formation needed to take on important responsibilities. Room has not been made for them to speak and act, due to an excessive clericalism which keeps them away from decision-making. (EG, 102)
  • Thinking that nothing will change and that it is useless to make the effort ... a malicious excuse for remaining caught up in comfort, laziness, vague dissatisfaction and empty selfishness. (EG, 275)
  • Subscribing to a relativism which proves even more dangerous than doctrinal relativism... acting as if God did not exist, making decisions as if the poor did not exist, setting goals as if others did not exist, working as if people who have not received the Gospel did not exist. (EG, 80)
  • Activity undertaken badly, without adequate motivation, without a spirituality which would permeate it and make it pleasurable. Far from a content and happy tiredness this [leads to] a tense, burdensome, dissatisfying and, in the end, unbearable fatigue. (EG, 82)

An Examination of Conscience for The Evangelizer

How I long to find the right words to stir up enthusiasm for a new chapter of evangelization full of fervour, joy, generosity, courage, boundless love and attraction! Yet I realize that no words of encouragement will be enough unless the fire of the Holy Spirit burns in our hearts. (EG, 261) 

Do you personally bind the movement of the Holy Spirit in your evangelizing efforts through any of the following?

  • Seeking to escape from others and take refuge in the comfort of privacy or in a small circle of close friends. (EG, 88)
  • Interpersonal relationships provided by screens and systems which can be turned on and off on command [instead of flesh and blood encounters]. (EG, 88)
  • Thinking that nothing will change and that it is useless to make the effort ... a malicious excuse for remaining caught up in comfort, laziness, vague dissatisfaction and empty selfishness. (EG, 275)
  • An inordinate concern for personal freedom and relaxation... a heightened individualism, a crisis of identity and a cooling of fervour (particularly among many pastoral workers, including consecrated men and women). (EG, 78)
  • Fear that you may be asked to undertake some apostolic work.  (EG, 81)
  • Seeking to avoid responsibility that may take away from your free time. (EG, 81)
  • Throwing yourself into unrealistic projects. Or because you lack the patience to allow processes to mature, having a tendency to want everything to fall from heaven. (EG, 82)

Do you consider yourself a liberal? Here are a few just for you:

  • A purely subjective faith whose only interest is a certain experience or a set of ideas and bits of information which are meant to console and enlighten, but which keep one imprisoned in [one’s] thoughts and feelings. (EG, 94)
  • A sort of inferiority complex which leads [us] to relativize or conceal [our] Christian identity and convictions. [We] end up being unhappy with who [we] are and what [we] do; [we] do not identify with [the] mission of evangelization (EG, 79)

Would you call yourself a conservative? Try these on for size:

  • A supposed soundness of doctrine or discipline [that] leads instead to a narcissistic and authoritarian elitism, whereby instead of evangelization, one exhausts his or her energies in inspecting and verifying [others] (EG, 94)
  • An ostentatious preoccupation for the liturgy, for doctrine and for the Church’s prestige, but without concern that the Gospel have a real impact on God’s faithful people and the concrete needs of the present time (EG, 95)
  • Some who have solid doctrinal and spiritual convictions frequently fall into a lifestyle which leads to an attachment to financial security (EG, 80)

This list can be a searing examination of conscience for all of us. We know that there are people and forces outside the Church that inhibit our efforts. But we need to accept what the above lists show: that we are the major obstacle to evangelization, and that there is much within our power to change.

EG 261

The inspiring and challenging message of Evangelii Gaudium leads us to evangelize: in the parish, with those of the faithful who do not “practice”, and with people who do not know the Gospel. This challenge takes us through a series of steps:

  • Acknowledging that we are complacent, that we do have the attitude that we are here to administer, not to be on mission
  • Repenting of obstacles to our evangelizing efforts, especially from spiritual worldliness
  • Seeking the joy that comes from knowing the saving love of Jesus
  • Sharing that love with others, because we have been transformed into streams of living water
  • Accompanying people in their joys and sorrows, while sharing the Gospel with them on the way
  • Proclaiming the kingdom of God which includes the call to social justice, and a church of and for the poor
  • Turning to the Holy Spirit as the agent of evangelization in our lives and in our world

Did any of these particularly resonate with you? Do you need help continuing on your own journey to live out Jesus' call to "Go and make disciples"?  Burning Hearts can help! 

Contact us today for more information on how we can help you create a culture of intentional disciplelship within your parish or within your home!

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