If I preach the gospel, this is no reason for me to boast, for an obligation has been imposed on me, and woe to me if I do not preach it! - 1 Cor 9:16-19
Woe to me if I do not preach it! These are the powerful words we heard from the second reading at Mass on Sunday. Are they meant for St. Paul alone? Surely, St. Paul was commissioned to preach the gospel, but am I? Given the fact that the last five popes have emphasized evangelization, I believe that as Catholics and Catholic institutions, evangelization must be the root and core of all we do.
Though evangelization sounds like a scary thing to do, it doesn’t have to be. It can be as simple as a smile. Mother Teresa said, “We shall never know all the good that a simple smile can do.” St. Francis of Assisi encourages us to “Preach the gospel at all times. Use words only when necessary.” One piece of advice that has stuck with me over the years is “Be careful how you live. You may be the only Bible some person ever reads.”
We evangelize by our good example, by the quality of our moral lives, by our kindness, by the love we show another, and yes, by the words we utter, as St. Peter reminds us: “Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence…” 1 Peter 3:15,16
As a Catholic institution, Mount Royal Academy is also called to be part of the New Evangelization spoken of by Pope St. John Paul II. What does that look like in action?
First and foremost, Jesus himself, present in the Blessed Sacrament, waits for us in the oratory (chapel). We also have the incredible privilege of participating in the Sacraments right here on campus. Students line up for confession twice a week when Fr. Michael Sartori comes to say Mass for us. Prayers like the Angelus, Rosary, and Divine Mercy chaplet can be heard all over campus.
Just last week the instances of evangelization I personally witnessed on campus include the smiles of friends greeting each other in the morning, teachers collaborating on the best system to motivate and encourage students, a meal being delivered to a healing family, another meal delivered to a family with a new baby, a teacher offering comfort and healing to a hurting and struggling student, another teacher offering constructive correction to a student, and my favorite--classmates interceding for each other in prayer.
In the classroom, evangelization happens as teachers take the time to understand not just the child’s academic struggles, but the heart of the child himself. When faced with a challenging student, the teacher evangelist asks “What is God calling me to do in this situation with this particular student? What is God’s plan for this student? How can I bring the love of Christ to this student in this moment?”
To be effective and sincere, evangelization must always be rooted in love. I remember meeting a mystic years ago. This woman had spent time in Auschwitz during World War II, and through the sufferings she experienced had developed an intense spiritual life and deep union with God. She was a very holy woman. Meeting her was a bit intimidating, and I expected to feel inferior and unworthy in her presence. To my surprise, it was the direct opposite; she was a warm, loving person. I was enveloped in love, but it was the love of God that I experienced. This woman was a true evangelist as she brought the love of Christ everywhere she went. This is the mark of true holiness and what we are called to.
We must build up, not tear down the person before us, because if we are not loving, how can they experience the love of God? This is particularly true with children. It is important to remember that the gospel is not a battering ram which we use to beat people up and tell them where they have gone astray. That is not evangelization, as it has no power to reach a person’s heart. Rather, the gospel is a love letter from God to his people, which he asks us to share with everyone.
At Mount Royal Academy, evangelization occurs in the moments we recognize and respond to Christ in our students. With charity, wisdom, and the grace of God, we preach the gospel by our love and our example, with the intention of providing a living “explanation for the hope that is within us.”
- Mrs. Lisa Sweet, Academic Dean