Mary, model of evangelization, has much to teach us about evangelization by the way she relates to God and his people. Here are three scenes in Mary’s life that reveal the secret of evangelization.
- The Annunciation. Mary had a personal relationship with God and said “yes” to what he asked of her.
Mary’s encounter with God’s messenger changed her life. The Holy Spirit overwhelmed her with such joy she could only say “yes” to God’s will for her. This is mind-boggling, unfathomable and truly mystical!
Like Mary, having a personal relationship with God is an absolute pre-requisite for each of us to become an effective evangelist.
Without a personal witness, I have nothing to give, nothing of importance to share. Even if I have a ministry of teaching the faith, my instructions won’t be authentic without the flavor of my personal relationship with the Lord. Pope Francis said,
”Those who do not believe in or search for God have perhaps never been challenged by a testimony of faith.”
- The journey to visit Elizabeth. Mary pondered her story.
The second way that Mary shows us how to evangelize is by pondering our encounters with God. What questions did Mary ask on her way to visit Elizabeth? Can you see her on the road to the house of Zechariah and Elizabeth? Thinking, wondering, praying about what her encounter with God’s messenger means?
She mulls over in her mind the words of the angel Gabriel. Perhaps not making sense of them, but trusting God. Mary contemplates the Annunciation, reliving it over in her mind as I go over my encounters with God and record them in my journal.
- Mary fulfilled her “yes” to God by always being ready to share her story. St. Peter directs us to,
“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)
Mary is ready to tell Elizabeth. She teaches us to evangelize by her courage, her proactive witness. We are not to hesitate in sharing our story, especially with those close to us. Like Elizabeth, many close to us already know that something wonderful has happened to us. What a joy to tell them how God is working in our life.
In the telling of her story, Mary found her experience became more real, more clear, more amazing. She knew she initiated none of it. She knew God prepared her for that moment and gave her the grace to be open to receiving whatever he had in mind for her. We can be assured that God initiates his encounter with us at the exact moment he has prepared us for, giving us the grace to receive all he has for us.
Clarifying our thoughts
By telling those dearest to her what God had done in her, Mary found that the reactions and questioning that followed her initial experience clarified her “yes” to God.
Do you see how knowing and pondering our faith story helps clarify our thoughts? Like Mary, when we share our story, we see how God intervened and steered us to the path he planned for our greatest happiness.
Then our deepest beliefs naturally emerge — like Mary’s song in Luke 1:46-49: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior. . . The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.”
Unlike Mary, I did not share my conversion story with those close to me when I was 15, or even when I converted to Catholicism as a young mother. I didn’t get the benefit of clarifying my encounter with God through their questions, feedback and support. I pondered and trusted God — and wrote in my journals.
The secret of evangelization
Not so, today! I’ve learned the secret to evangelization. I’ve experienced crises and blessings, I’ve surrendered my life to God countless times. I’ve delighted in his healings that make up my faith story of continuous conversion.
My early encounters with God also are part of my faith story today even though I bemoaned many lost opportunities to share all those inspiring moments recorded in my stack of journals.
In God’s timetable, those moments, vividly described, are just as real and just as current today. When prompted by the Holy Spirit, I willingly share those times I said “yes” to God. They are vital chapters in my faith biography.
Mary shows us scene by scene the secret of evangelization is:
Say “yes” to God.
Know your story.
Share your story.
How does your faith story confirm the three aspects that make up the secret of evangelization?
(© 2017 Nancy HC Ward)