The Catholic Church preaches the good news of Jesus Christ 24/7. Members of the Church preach in and outside of Church buildings. Every Catholic is engaged in "preaching." We, in fact, are a great body of preachers, of evangelizers, and we spread the Gospel as good news in many different ways.
Most probably we associate preaching with the homily “preached” by the priest at Mass. Pope Francis, however, views preaching much more dynamically. Pope Francis, in The Joy of the Gospel, describes how the faith becomes embodied in a culture and is constantly passed on. We see the simple yet beautiful ways the Gospel is brought to life in the mother at a child's bedside quietly saying her rosary or just talking to God about her fears, in the father who is worried about the outcome of a court case asking for prayers on a website, in the teenager walking down the street boasting a message from the Gospel on his shirt, or a young adult quietly reading the Bible on her phone on the subway. Pope Francis calls this "popular spirituality" or "the people's mysticism." It is a spirituality incarnated in the culture of the people, a spirituality that discovers and expresses content through symbols and is a way of feeling part of the Church. This “people's mysticism” has missionary power and everyone can spread the Gospel in this way.
I remember there was a lot of religious symbolism in my home as I was growing up. A beautiful image of Our Lady of Perpetual Help always hung in our living room with a small candle before it. It was a favorite devotion of my mother, and even now when I return home, it is standing before Our Lady's image for just a moment that assures me I truly am home. We often said the rosary together. Every time my mother dropped us off at school, she would say, "God bless you. God love you. God keep you." And we would respond with the same blessing to her. Most of the time, I must admit, we rattled it off quickly, but the consistent use of that salutation quietly had its effect on our young hearts. Little things, really, and yet powerful ways of "being missionaries," according to Pope Francis. He calls them "evangelizing gestures."
"Let us not stifle or presume to control this missionary power!" (n. 123-124).
This preaching is the daily responsibility of all of us. Preaching becomes in the family, among friends, and with colleagues, a lifestyle of loving others enough to inject the Gospel into their world. It is the "informal preaching which takes place in the middle of a conversation...constantly ready to bring the love of Jesus to others, and this can happen unexpectedly and in any place: on the street, in a city square, during work, on a journey" (no. 127).
by Sr. Kathryn James Hermes, FSP
Here’s a Check List for creating evangelizing symbols and gestures in your life. Some of these might work for you:
- Place a picture, statue, icon, or symbolic image in your room or home.
- Keep a discreet symbol of belief in your workspace.
- We can bless others even silently. Develop your own words and wishes of blessing which you can offer others in your heart when you meet them.
- Promise prayers when people share with you their problems and needs.
- Make a pilgrimage to a shrine near you or in the area where you are vacationing.
- Choose wallpapers for your computers and Facebook Timeline Covers that reflect your trust in a loving God.
- Post status updates that share the joy you have found in the Gospel.
- Use mugs, wear sweat shirts, decorate with plaques or posters that have inspirational messages.
- Drop an inspirational message into your children’s lunch box or backpack.
- Let your kids see you praying. Share with them how you turn to God when you have problems.
What would you add to this list?