Posted: 01 May 2014 12:44 PM PDT
The Church calls the living faithful “Church Militant.” We are in warfare and that is a fact. We must, however, be very careful because we do not want to injure our fellow brothers and sisters in the Lord. Our mission is not to kill, but to raise. It is not to strike, but to lift. It is not to maim, but heal. It is not to reject, but to restore.
I have seen all too often and have fallen for the trap myself many times. How often have I seen a post on Facebook, shared a beer with a friend, been a guest to another’s house and just had to win the human intellectual war instead of the human heart? Let me tell you, it is too often.
The Collateral Damage Catholic believes that he is rationally on the right side of the debate on truth, morals, history, canon law, liturgy, pious practice, and tradition and these objects will save him and others. He can quote so many popes, Church fathers, and saints to confirm that he is a saint and that in so many ways you are not. They have a tendency to sin in which they think that winning is all that matters and their only arsenal is cold hard facts that only divide. The Vulcans may be impressed, but our missionary field today is not on the planet Vuclan.
The old wives tale of attracting more bees with honey is foreign for his knee jerk reaction is attack. Here are five examples of evangelizing that either waste time in our missionary work or actually make matters worse:
1. “I think love is the only requirement for marriage. Basing marriage solely on a male and female is old fashioned. The Church is going to change this teaching to catch up with the modern times.”
Did these words evoke “attack” mode of intellectual response team?
2. “It is my body and I can do anything I want to it. This thing inside me is not a baby, it is a fetus and as a fetus it only has the rights I give it.”
Did your blood start to bubble? Were your first thoughts going to include a defense of human life? Did you think you could win over this mother’s heart by talking about zygotes and embryos? Were you convinced that if she was not going to change her mind in this conversational instant that it would also be the best time to introduce her to what actions can lead a person to hell?
3. “Jesus came for the down-trodden and poor. He was inclusive. Therefore the government needs to equalize everyone’s income because big corporations are only concerned with the almighty dollar. The poor need the same opportunity as the rich and public education and public healthcare are great ways to make it an even playing field.”
Were you about to roll your eyes? Were you about to get hotheaded and react like people going on strike? Were you thinking that an argument that ends in yelling conservative talking points would convince them to change their mind?
4. “The spirit of Vatican II…”
Did you stop listening after you heard those words? Were you already listing off objections before you comprehended the end of the sentence?
5. “At this time in our marriage, my husband and I think it is best to use artificial contraception because we cannot afford another child.”
Did your first sentence in response include “Contraception is a mortal sin.” Maybe you think that if you could just explain natural family planning clear enough in this elevator ride that this person you met will immediately order the latest material from Couple to Couple League.
It is our personal vocation whether as a member of Holy Orders, Marriage, or religious life to evangelize. Christ has asked us to take the Gospel to all of creation. I think we can mistake evangelizing with winning logical arguments. Rather than thinking a few premises and a conclusion will just turn on a brain switch, perhaps fraternal correction will do better. Fraternal correction is a spiritual work of mercy. There is a reason “fraternal” comes before “correction.” The best way to evangelize is to first become friends because then we can live as brothers and sisters in the Lord which sets the groundwork for evangelization. Remember, the early Christians were noticeably different from their pagan counterparts because of their merciful love. Having been well versed in the Old and New Testament, they would know that the Father showers His love on the good and bad. They would have known that Jesus came to save each person regardless of their past. They would not just serve their Christian friends because they knew Jesus taught (Matthew 5:43-48):
When it comes to our initial meeting with someone who is misled, leading willed sinful life, or is ignorant of the Church’s teachings, we would do much better to treat the person as a patient in need of care like a physician that listens to a patient describe an illness. The Good Doctor I know says (1 Cor. 13:4-7) “Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”