“Apostolate? I’m not ready for this!”

July 24, 2019 | Fr. John of God Bertín, MC

Those of us who know the treasure we have in our faith and in our relationship with God know how much everyone needs Jesus – His love, His mercy, His peace. No one knows that better than God Himself, and He has entrusted this work of evangelization to all of us. All of us, baptized men and women. Not just a few. Not just the ones with religious habits or theology degrees. Not just the ones whose sanctity people whisper about. All of us. And that includes you.

I can already hear the objections: “But I’m not holy enough!” “I don’t know enough!” “I’m just a lay person!” “Evangelizing others would be hypocritical.” Let me answer those objections with an example.

Recently, I saw a four-year-old boy get knocked over by a dog. His seven-year-old brother wasn’t paying attention when he threw the ball, and the dog was only paying attention to the ball. The ball flew; the dog ran; the little brother got knocked over and started crying. He sat up, looked around, spotted his mom, then scrambled to her as fast as he could. She scooped him up in her arms and asked, “Are you hurt or scared?” Tears dribbling down his red cheeks, he said, “I’m scared.” She held him for a while, and when he felt better, he went back to the yard to play.

Was his mom the holiest adult in the yard? Had she read all the best parenting books? I don’t know, and the little boy certainly didn’t know. He didn’t care. Of course, an increase in holiness would make her an even better mom, just like an increase in holiness and knowledge, of course, would make all of us better at our work and vocations. But if that terrified little boy had to choose between his mom and a saint, he would have chosen his mom. If he had to choose between his mom and a better mom, he would have chosen his mom. In this case, it was their relationship that mattered.

In a similar way, we are all charged with delivering the gospel. Are you a saint? Do you know enough about our faith? Keep working on it, but don’t let your imperfections keep you from evangelization. Think of your siblings, friends, colleagues, neighbors, clients, and so on – everyone you have a relationship with, whether it’s a friendship, a professional relationship, or family. Like everyone, they need to know the salvific love of God. But some of might be intimidated at the sight of a man in religious garb. Most would not be willing to share their personal struggles with a stranger, no matter how knowledgeable or holy. Maybe they will not find another opportunity to meet someone that speaks about God to them. They need you – someone who knows them and loves them, with whom they have some kind of relationship. They need you like the little boy needed his mom.

Evangelizing others when you have weaknesses is not hypocritical, as long as you don’t pretend to be perfect. So be simple. Be honest. Be humble. Thus your zeal for gaining others for Christ will make you better your own faith as well.

As the saying goes, God doesn’t call the equipped; He equips those He calls. Regardless of your specific vocation, He has called you to evangelize, and He has equipped you with the grace of faith in baptism. Pursue holiness. Learn about your faith. Develop authentic relationships grounded in love. Pray for the grace to share the gospel effectively. And trust our Father in heaven to provide for everything they need.