Some time ago I read a little book entitled Ripples of Joy by Cheryl Kirking. Its title comes from the fact that one little stone cast into a body of water creates a multitude of ripples that circle outward to infinity. Walking down the street, I smile and people smile back. If I frown or look angry, people look away or avoid me. Ripples of joy and enthusiasm spread quickly as do ripples of anger or fear or doubt.
It is much the same with our faith and the way we share our faith with others. If we are enthusiastic and positive about Christ and our everyday lives show that we live our faith, then those around us will also be enthusiastic and positive about the Christian way of life. If we enjoy being BCBP members, then it will be easier for us to invite others to join the BCBP.
Popes Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI have pointed out that evangelization, the sharing of our faith with others, needs to be holistic in approach so as to bring about a genuine transformation of individuals and society. This is the “new evangelization” or “integral evangelization” that each one of us as Christians is called to actively practice.
What is Integral Evangelization?
Integral evangelization is simply defined as the proclaiming of the Gospel in Word and Sacrament and Life to bring about one’s personal conversion impelling one to active involvement in the total process of human development. Evangelization is, in fact, the totality of the grace and vocation proper to the Church and to each one of us as part of the Body of Christ.
Evangelii Nuntiandi (EN), issued by Pope Paul VI, emphasizes that evangelization is never complete unless it takes into account the unceasing integration of the Gospel and man’s concrete life, both personal and social. It reminds us of the continuing need to be evangelized ourselves, placing the witness of life as the first and fundamental step in the evangelization process. Building communities and bettering society cannot be achieved without the positive and dynamic witness of life shown by the evangelizer.
In the Brotherhood we are fortunate to have each other’s evangelizing presence to nourish and strengthen us. We may not realize it but often times it is in the little things that we do (greeting friends and newcomers at the Breakfast, clapping and dancing during the praising songs, listening to our brothers and sisters with our hearts, etc.) that influence others to friendship and joy. We share a great responsibility with this Witness of Life – to realize it, to accept it, and to take responsibility for how our lives touch others.
We are the stones of Life that the Holy Spirit casts into the waters of society. What kind of ripples do we create?
Why Do We Evangelize?
The Parable of the Monkey and the Fish provides a humorous insight into motives of evangelization. We might even call it an example of Monkey Evangelization!
In a far corner of Brazil, one of the last places noted for its green woods and abundant animal life, there lived a monkey and a small fish. The monkey was known for his extreme goodness. He took pleasure in helping other animals in the forest.
The monkey spent his days leaping from tree to tree, looking for someone in need of help. One day, he stopped near a river. Since he could not swim, he sat on the bank and watched the river for a long time. He saw a fish swimming about. The monkey thought the little fish must surely be cold, and might even drown in such a big river. So he decided to help the fish. He hopped onto a piece of wood floating by and grabbed the fish as he floated close by. As he held the cold fish in his hand, he grew sad at the thought that nobody had ever come by to help the fish get warm. He was happy that he, at last, had discovered the plight of this poor fish and been of some assistance.
But the monkey was not content with simply rescuing the cold little fish. He decided he could help him even more, and decided to take him home and hold him close as he slept, warming the fish with his own body. The next morning, the monkey discovered that the little fish had died. He grew sad at the sight of its lifeless body, but felt somewhat better knowing he had done his best to help his friend. He concluded that the fish must have died of a cold, which he no doubt had caught during the time he had been in the river, when no one else had stopped by to help him.
Sometimes in our zeal to bring others to our way of thinking, we neglect to consider their circumstances and their feelings. During the visit of Pope John Paul II to the Philippines in 1995, he emphasized the need for “integral evangelization”. He said, “Integral evangelization must aim at generating and nourishing a faith which brings about a genuine transformation of individuals and society.”
The efforts of the monkey in the parable to help the fish were done to satisfy his (the monkey’s) desire to help and did not consider the actual needs and situation of the fish. So, too, we as evangelists must take into consideration all aspects of life of those whom we would like to help. It is active involvement in both religious and human concerns (socio-economic, political, religious, and cultural) of our everyday lives that is the key to an effective evangelization with our efforts anchored on and motivated by our faith in God.
Each of us needs to reflect on our evangelization efforts as a BCBP member and as an active, practicing Christian and ask: Am I a monkey evangelist? Or, am I an authentic Christian evangelist who lives out my faith in all areas of my life?
Source: Evangelizing Presence: The Challenge of Social Transformation. Authored by Fr Pat Giordano and Nancy Catan. A BCBP Publication.