Thursday, August 10, 2017

Evangelizing for most of us

We are all called to evangelize, but the thought of doing so intimidates many. They think you need a degree in theology, or be a Bible scholar, or be a canon lawyer in order to do so.

But in reality, we can evangelize simply by living and through small actions and symbols. Here's a few ideas.

Wear your faith on your sleeve - or on your lapel, or around your neck.

All of us can wear some item that identifies our faith without standing on a soapbox. I am a Secular Franciscan, so I wear a Tau Cross - ether as a cross around my neck, or as a lapel pin. That's our habit, but it also is a witness that sometimes spurs conversation as people ask about my cross,

Other people could wear a pin, a necklace, some item that identifies one as a Christian.

Along the same line, we can choose clothing that identifies us - a tie, a tee-shirt, a mantilla, whatever.

Not only can what we wear be a way to witness, it can be a reminder to us to watch what we say and do.

And conversely, it can make us more conscious of what we should not wear. Is wearing a "Co-ed Naked Volleyball" tee-shirt really a way to say "I am a Christian" - or something we'd like to face God wearing?

Try praying publicly.

I remember years ago when I was hitchhiking (yes, you could get away with it in those days), and a man picked me up. We started chatting, and I noticed something on his finger. I asked what it was, and he explained that it was a finger rosary, and that he prays the rosary when he's driving.

I never forgot that. I now do the same thing. That man had evangelized by simply praying.

There are other ways to do that. Make a sign of the cross - notice how when athletes do that people comment? Bow or tip you hat when you pass a church.

And what about saying Grace in a restaurant?

Watch what you say.

It's so easy to get caught up in negative conversations at family gatherings, at work, when out with friends. We fall into criticizing, gossiping, and tearing down others. What if we did not take part? What if we changed the subject? What is we responded with something positive? What if we said it made us uncomfortable? What a witness.

Along that line, our conversations have gotten coarser, full of foul words and sexual innuendo. Just as with the talking about others, what if we refused to use the crude language? If we feel braver, maybe even say something.

I had a co-worker who came up with a way to stop it. She taught a night school course, and a number of the men in the class tended to use foul language, with f-bombs flying. She realized they were not doing so maliciously, it was just a habit. So one night she walked into class and substituted f-bobs for every adjective and adverb. The guys were shocked, then they got it and cleaned up their own language. I wouldn't do that myself, but it worked.

Anyway, by avoiding the talk, being aware of our own words, maybe helping others to look at what they are saying, we can witness to others, and so evangelize.

Use common courtesy.

Each day we have so many moments when we can treat others with respect and courtesy. Let someone else go first. Hold a door. Make room for another driver to switch lanes. Smile. Say please and thank you and sorry. Say "God bless you."

Yes, I know these all might be just courteous, but in a world where courtesy is increasingly rare, such gestures stand out. And if others then see our religious pins or bumper stickers, they might then link how we are behaving to what we believe.

I'm sure people can come up with more examples. But the point is we can all evangelize every day in so many ways.

Pax et bonum

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