evangelism: not a dirty word, an important one

The other day I had one of those beautiful moments in my classroom when I had to step back and let God do the teaching. I was trying to help my students understand mortal sin and in my explanation it suddenly seemed very important to emphasize the mercy of God and forgiveness more than death. I told my students how although some people in history have clearly committed sins that may seem to be considered deadly the Church has never declared that anyone is in hell. (Wise move, Church!)

“We can’t fully know,” I told my students, “the power of God’s love. God loves us all so much it’s beyond our comprehension. Think of someone who loves you no matter what you do, and who will always forgive you. If you can’t think of anyone, think of me. I’ll always love you no matter what. Consider that the love that that person has for you is only a sliver, a tiny fraction, like 1/1000th of how amazing and big God’s love is for you.”

My students stared at me in disbelief. The implications of that love started to sink in. And then, like many teenage boys would, they mixed silly with serious, from their worldview. For my students, their worldview is a Chicago south side African-American male worldview. “Would you take a bullet for me, Sister?” “Yes! Of course I would!” Then the devil snuck in and whispered one of his lies about love into their ear. “Would you shoot someone else for me, Sister?” “No, because love never kills.”

At the end of the day, when I reflected on the moment, I realized that I am totally an evangelist, 2010 style. I am so happy that I get to preach about God’s love and share God’s love through my witness. It’s a joy to be an evangelist. And, although preaching to a classroom full of boys that are trying to pass religion class may not be as glamorous as street preaching like St. Francis of Assisi and his brothers did back in the day, it is probably just as valuable.

As a Franciscan, I’m supposed to be living an Evangelical life. That means I am trying to live a Gospel life, a life that shares the Good News. Technically us Franciscans are neither apostolic nor contemplative in the model of religious life that we live, but we live a 3rd type of religious life that is a combination of the two. We’re evangelicals, and it’s fabulous.

Today, in 2010, I still think that us Christians have a lot of evangelizing to do. We really ought to share the Good News in all the ways we can. Let’s convince people of God’s love, and their dignity and that they are needed to help build the reign of God. Let’s help people convert away from greed, violence, and lies about God and Love. Let’s give people what they need to be people of generosity, peace and Truth.

I have to admit, sometimes part of me wants to grab a megaphone and hit the streets in order to holler about Justice and Forgiveness. I just am not sure that it is the most effective way to share the Good News today. Pope Benedict had a great suggestion this week about how to reach the masses with the Good News. Come on Christians, use ye Blogs and Facebooks and Twitters. Let the world know: God loves everybody!

Originally from Northeast Iowa, Sister Julia is a  Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration, based in La Crosse, Wisconsin.  Her love for God and God’s good world is manifested in her attempts to be an educator, a youth empower-er, an earth lover, and a peacemaker.  She ministers at an inner-city Catholic high school in Chicago.

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