By AJ Garcia/Director of the Office of New Evangelization and Justice
Happy Easter! What a blessing to be able to celebrate the Resurrection for an entire seven week liturgical season. I pray that you are finding ways to continue growing closer to the Lord and building on the habits you established during Lent. Hopefully, you are still living out some of the habits that brought you closer to Christ during those 40 days.
What a struggle it is to remain committed to new or different habits we may have started during Lent, I certainly can relate! The hardest part about improving in or starting a new habit or hobby is simply getting started, right? For example, it’s hard trying to learn a sport or skill like photography, gardening, or carpentry. Realistically each of those will take more than 40 days to master.
Someone preparing for a half-marathon has probably thought about it more than 40 days in advance! Think about the preparation entailed if you don’t want to fall flat on your face the day of the race. First, is the day even open on your calendar? Hopefully that is something you’ve considered more than a month in advance. As you move closer to race day, you put in the time and effort to train, you adjust your schedule to make time to exercise. Also, you make sacrifices and adjust your diet for optimal performance. Maybe you’re not a runner, but you get the picture: there is much planning, time, effort, and sacrifice to prepare for a race. In comparison, what we are preparing for as Catholics and followers of Christ is much more important than a race. We are preparing for eternal life!
“Do you not know that the runners in the stadium all run in the race, but only one wins the prize? Run so as to win. Every athlete exercises discipline in every way. They do it to win a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one. Thus I do not run aimlessly; I do not fight as if I were shadow boxing. No, I drive my body and train it, for fear that, after having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified.” (1 Cor 9:24-27)
We are training for an imperishable crown; to be united forever with the Father in Heaven. However, we do not train merely for ourselves. Today we are so much more willing to prepare and sacrifice for a half marathon than we are for the REAL race we are running. As Blessed Pope Paul VI said in “On Evangelization in the Modern World”, “Evangelizing is in fact the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity. She exists in order to evangelize.” In pursuing our goal to return to the Father, we have the opportunity and responsibility to bring many more with us! How do we do that?
Many people have asked me, “what are some practical things I can do to evangelize, what can I do to start evangelizing?” The answer is something that is essential and I fear we let become cliché: pray.
If we want to evangelize, if we want our friends and family to return to the faith, or start living the faith, we must pray! This concept of prayer is often something we, as a community, open ourselves to during Lent, but we seem to easily abandon good habits of prayer we formed. Before we go out and represent the Lord and his Church, we have to become more conformed to him. We have to know Jesus if we’re going to talk about him! Being active in evangelization does not mean we have all the answers or that we are perfectly holy, but that we are striving to know Jesus increasingly more and have a zeal to make him known to others.
Before we take care of others, let’s not forget to take care of ourselves. Let’s allow ourselves to be evangelized first by Christ and then by holy people around us. Spend time with the Lord every day. Learn to be more like Him so that you can become who he made you to be. In closing, I will share a quote in honor of St. Catherine of Siena, whose feast day was celebrated on April 29, “Become who you were created to be and you will set the world on fire.”