“Ask a Priest: How Can I Evangelize?”

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Q: Is it a mortal sin not to preach the Gospel and evangelize? What is the definition of evangelization, and what are examples? – I.F.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: We need to distinguish here.

If we don’t preach the Gospel in a certain moment — for instance, to a wayward relative who happens to be visiting briefly — that might be a venial sin.

But if we go month after month, year after year, without sharing the Gospel with others, there could be a serious sin of omission.

In a particular situation it might be hard to draw a line between venial and mortal sin. God alone knows the heart of a person.

Suffice it to say that evangelization of some kind should be a part of every Catholic’s life.

What is evangelization? Let’s take a sentence from a U.S. bishops’ conference statement:

“We can rephrase his [Pope Paul VI’s] words to say that evangelizing means bringing the Good News of Jesus into every human situation and seeking to convert individuals and society by the divine power of the Gospel itself. At its essence are the proclamation of salvation in Jesus Christ and the response of a person in faith, which are both works of the Spirit of God.”

A rich read is Paul VI’s 1975 exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi.

Examples of evangelization could be:

— Making time for prayer with your family at meals and other times of the day.

— Speaking with family members and friends about the words of Christ and the teachings of the Church.

— Speaking with family members and friends about the words of Christ and the teachings of the Church.

— Getting involving in teaching CCD or doing door-to-door missions in one’s parish.

— Starting a Bible study circle or gathering a group to delve into the theology of the body.

— Supporting overseas missions with your prayers and financial donations.

— Witnessing to your faith in our neighborhood and workplace through your example, your conversations, the things your wear (crosses) or have on our desk (crucifix or picture of a saint) etc.

For more ideas, see my colleague Father Bartunek’s book, Go! 30 Meditations on How to Best Love Your Neighbor as Yourself.

Whatever your state in life, let yourself be guided by the words of 1 Corinthians 9:16 – “If I preach the gospel, this is no reason for me to boast, for an obligation has been imposed on me, and woe to me if I do not preach it!”

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