Have you ever thought of yourself as a messenger? With modern technology, the concept of a messenger may seem a little foreign. Today, we can sit at a computer, type a message and with the click of a button, it is transmitted to its recipient.
In days past, this process looked much different. Messengers were often employed to deliver important information in a timely and efficient manner, usually accomplishing this by running or horseback.
Handing on the Faith
The messenger would have understood the responsibility that such a task entailed, which may have involved delivering a royal edict from a king or a military order from an army commander. Thus the job would have been carried out with great diligence and urgency.
As baptized Christians, each of us is called to be a messenger. We have been entrusted with the message of Good News to be announced to the world. The instructions Jesus gave to his disciples are also meant for each of us: “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15).
Sharing this message of Good News is what evangelization is all about. At the root of the word, “evangelize” is the term “angel,” which comes from the Greek word for “messenger.”
Throughout salvation history, God has used spiritual messengers, or “angels,” in many ways. An angel told Abraham of his impending fatherhood, inaugurating a new era in God’s plan for our salvation. An angel brought the good news of the incarnation of the Son of God to the Virgin Mary.
However, angels are not the only messengers used by God to deliver important news. He has also chosen us to carry out this task. The Catechism tells us that all of the Christian faithful, by virtue of our baptism and confirmation, “have the right and duty . . . to work so that the divine message of salvation may be known and accepted by all men throughout the earth” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 900).
The grace we receive at baptism is given not only for our own holiness, but for the sanctification of the world. This new life, bestowed upon us by the Holy Spirit, incorporates us into the Body of Christ and obliges us to take on the missionary mandate of the church, which is to make disciples of all nations.
Our call to be messengers implies that there is a message to deliver, the Gospel or Good News of Jesus Christ.
It begins with the proclamation that “Jesus Christ loves you; he gave his life to save you; and now he is living at your side every day to enlighten, strengthen and free you” (Evangelii Gaudium, 164).
When we have come to know our Lord Jesus Christ, there follows the desire to share our joy with others. The apostle John noted that unless he proclaimed what Christ had done, so that others may also know him, his joy would not be complete (cf. 1 John 1:1-4).
Pope Francis describes the characteristics of this joy: “Those who accept [Jesus’] offer of salvation are set free from sin, sorrow, inner emptiness and loneliness. With Christ joy is constantly born anew” (Joy of the Gospel, 1).
Who doesn’t want joy in their life? We all have a desire for happiness, but until we know and love Jesus Christ, our yearning will never be fulfilled and our search will be in vain. Living apart from Christ, we will seek pleasure that is fleeting and unfulfilling. But living in union with him, we find the fulfillment of all our desires.
A document from the Second Vatican Council beautifully expresses this fulfillment: “Above all the Church knows that her message is in harmony with the most secret desires of the human heart. . . . Far from diminishing man, her message brings to his development light, life and freedom. Apart from this message nothing will avail to fill up the heart of man” (Gaudium et Spes, 21).
Sharing this message of salvation requires the effort and collaboration of all of the Christian faithful, each according to his state in life. Since we all make up the Body of Christ, we all have a unique and important role to play.
It can be mistakenly thought that the responsibility to spread the Gospel message is reserved exclusively for those who have received the sacrament of Holy Orders or who have taken vows of consecration to God.
While the ordained clergy and consecrated religious have been called to unique vocations which are single-heartedly devoted to the building up of God’s kingdom, it is important to realize that every member of the baptized has an important responsibility.
The laity are called in a special way to make Jesus Christ present and the work of his church manifest in places and situations that only they may be able to reach. Because the laity “live in the midst of the world and its concerns, they are called by God to exercise their apostolate in the world like leaven, with the ardor of the spirit of Christ” (Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity, 2).
If the laity are tempted to think that their role is small or insignificant, it is important to remember that the church’s evangelistic activities “cannot be fully effective without it” (CCC 900).
Liz Hoefferle is director of religious education for the Diocese of Duluth.