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Transforming the world by being a people “in love”

July 13, 2009

“We love because he first loved us.” (1 Jn 4:16-19)

One of the things that I struggle with the most is evangelization. I have friends and family members who either do not believe in God or are baptized Catholics who have left the Church. I do not want to force my beliefs on them, but on the other hand I am by no means a pluralist who thinks that it is okay for everybody to believe in whatever it is they believe is true and leave it at that. Otherwise, I would not believe that the truth is one and that it can only be found in the God of Jesus Christ and that has been transmitted to us through His Church.

I have learned from friends who are very successful in speaking to inactive Catholics or nonbelievers that whenever we are fortunate enough to be presented with an opportunity to discuss matters of faith, first of all we must listen very carefully to the other person. We need to understand what their concerns are, which are always valid and authentic. The issues they may have with organized religion or Catholicism, for that matter, do not occur in a vacuum and may very well be justified. Unfortunately, we are not always presented with this scenario: an adequate setting or enough time to have a relaxed and truthful chat about religion or Catholicism. Most of the time we are either working, or going to school, or attending social events or going about our daily chores. So how can we evangelize during this time?

I personally believe that it all comes down to the words that have been traditionally attributed to St. Francis of Assisi: “Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.” We all know that saying, but it sounds like it is easier said than done. I have long reflected about this and I have come up with an idea that is less than innovative and that may also sound like it is easier said than done! But let’s give it a try.

Love is the universal language. Regardless of age, gender, religion, race, ethnicity, or political affiliation, human beings can all speak the language of love. Love unites us. Love is our common bond. Therefore, if we want to “evangelize” we start and end with love.

When we are in love with someone, people notice it and they talk about it with us or with others. Michael and I know a Catholic couple that has been married for years. One of their children is disabled, but yet they are so filled with love and joy for their child as well as the rest of their children, friends, and coworkers. They are always smiling and making others smile as well. They are so welcoming and are always willing to help and give to the poor and needy. When we see a couple like this who share their reverence and love for the other constantly, we notice it right away and we feel like we can also share and participate in their joy—in the happiness of their union. Their union no longer is self-contained, but in fact welcomes anyone who wishes to participate in it. This is how our love for God should be: so abundant that it overflows and that allows others to share in it—a welcoming love.

When we see a compassionate person who perseveres in their ministry to the broken and the needy we are inspired by this love and wonder what keeps this person going. When we witness a son or daughter constantly caring and serving his or her elderly parents we are elevated to this higher love that moves them to give of themselves in such a way. These are people who are in love with someone and they act accordingly. They walk the talk. Same goes with our love for God. The true Christian is in love with someone—with God himself and he or she has to live out that love in order for it to be credible and for it to be a true witness.

If I constantly talk about the love I have for my husband, but I am flirting with other men when he is not around or I am rude to him in front of our friends and family, will others know that I am a person in love? People will start talking and will let him know that I am perhaps not the right person for him. Same goes with friends or family members and God. If I constantly talk about how pious I am or how often I pray, but I am impatient and rude to others who I encounter every day of my life, will others know that I am in love? If I refuse to serve others and prefer to always be first, will people be inspired by my love? Am I letting my love for God shine through my actions? Can others fall in love with God through my actions?

Blessed Mother Teresa was indeed in love and she elevated our spirits to that same love that united her to Jesus Christ. In her own words, she speaks of how “demanding” that love can be just as our love for spouses, significant others, family members and friends can be:

Because I talk so much of giving with a smile, once a professor from the United States asked me: “Are you married?” And I said: “Yes, and I find it sometimes very difficult to smile at my spouse, Jesus, because He can be very demanding – sometimes.” This is really something true. And this is where love comes in – when it is demanding, and yet we can give it with joy.”

One may ask at this point, but what kind of love are we talking about here? It is definitely not romantic love that I am referring to. It is not temporal love either. It is self-emptying love. It is a radical love that seeks nothing but to serve for the glory of God. It is perseverant love. It is the kind of love that moves us out of ourselves and that bears it all for God’s sake. It is a supernatural love that acknowledges that there is life to come and that knows that this world is not an end in itself, but only a phase in our journey. It is a love that knows that we are simply nomads walking towards our final and eternal destiny to share in the joy of the Divine fellowship. It is the kind of love (caritas) that St. Paul talks about in his first letter to the Corinthians:

Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, (love) is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. (13:4-8)

Christian love is radical… as radical as God becoming man… as radical as God dwelling among us… as radical as the crucified God… as radical as God being raised from the dead. We cease to be Christians when we cease to live and love radically until the end. Radical love is credible and transforming. Living out daily our radical love for God is the greatest witness we can give of our belief in the truth.

  1. david permalink
    July 13, 2009 8:25 pm

    Have you considered the Legion of Mary? You are right, listening is first and foremost in evangelisation–noone wants to be preached to. Going door to door is terrifying at times, but the fruit is abundant, especially when fallen away Catholics come back to Mass after many years.

    Bp. Sheen said that there are few who hate what the Church actually teaches, but there are many who hate what they think the Church believes. You would do well to at least try Mary’s Legion, a true evangelization, blogging only goes so far.

  2. July 14, 2009 9:51 am

    Good post Katerina!

    I struggle with evangelization on the interpersonal level as well. It’s fairly easy (for me) when I teaching a classroom of boys (although not necessarily successful), but when it concerns family and friends…I’d rather write a letter.

    I sometimes struggle with knowing how to love in certain situations, esp. considering I tend to be non-confrontational. How do I say, “I love you, but what you are doing is wrong” without coming off as judgmental or pushing them away. I think in our relativistic society it is very difficult to tell people something there are doing is wrong… at least for more.

    Regardless of the talking, I have much for improvement in gratuitousness in love and service of the other.

  3. Mark DeFrancisis permalink
    July 14, 2009 10:36 am

    Beautiful post, Katerina!

  4. Ronald King permalink
    July 14, 2009 10:54 am

    Thanks for this blessing on love. My story of a 40 year absence and return is basically due to love lost and love found as The Gift. Other than God is real and God is Love being given to me in 2005 the most profound gift I had received was the awareness that God’s first Gift of Love to man was woman. It is this knowledge that women are God’s gift of love to this world that now forms the foundation of my understanding of the beginning of human suffering as it relates to the source of love being unknown to the developing human being.
    I have much more I want to write but I must go now.
    I like what all have written on this site and I wish I had more time to read everything in depth.
    Thanks to all of you for bringing sanity and light.

  5. July 14, 2009 7:01 pm

    This is how our love for God should be: so abundant that it overflows and that allows others to share in it—a welcoming love.

    I like this a lot. It is a love that invites others to share in it and also welcomes the unexpected visitation of another.

  6. Ronald King permalink
    July 15, 2009 8:10 am

    Reading this again this morning other thoughts come to mind about love. Love is passionate and this passion removes us from our normal limitations of social interactions and into the unknown of spontaneous expressions of love for others no matter where we are.
    For example, I love seeing smiles and hearing laughter coming from others and I have known for a long time that this is one of the first ways in which a mother and child bond. My wife of 34 years and our two adult children are just beginning to believe that I am an introvert even though they see me acting in an extroverted fashion. Prior to the return to our faith I was driven to overcome my social phobia through unknown forces(Holy Spirit) to face my fears and was led into the study of psychology in order to understand why I did not fit in as well as I had observed others fitting in and being successful at it. This led me to Buddhism, reflection, and running in a natural progression in the development of self-understanding through a compassionate lens. Compassion is a characteristic of love and once that took hold I was becoming more open to facing the unknown and began to develop the belief that whatever created me in this universe I was created with love. I was also shown that whatever emotional pain I would feel it was due to a lack of love.
    Being internally driven as an introvert the search for truth began to intensify as it became clearer that human suffering begins and ends with love lost and love found. Finding love and knowing the source of love is a Gift I never thought I would believe as God. When God blew my mind my passion for loving others became outward expressions to family, friends and strangers that resulted in strange looks and then replaced by smiles or laughs when I would tell them I can’t help myself because I am being controlled by a force that only wants to see them smile.
    I know I am rambling now and I am not going to edit what I have written because love frees me from filtering its expression and love tells me that I really cannot express enough words or the right kind of words to describe love. Love can only be seen in the giving and the receiving as you noted with St. Francis.
    Thank God for Love and thank you for this post.

    • July 15, 2009 10:27 am


      Thank you so much for sharing your story! You’re so right about this:

      Love is passionate and this passion removes us from our normal limitations of social interactions and into the unknown of spontaneous expressions of love for others no matter where we are.

      I went through a similar search as yours and it is truly overwhelming, as you say, to finally realize that “I was created with love.”

  7. Ronald King permalink
    July 15, 2009 11:17 am

    Thank you for your kind response. However, I cannot take credit for what comes out of my mouth via what comes into my mind. When I read what you quoted above as my writing I thought that was not me writing that; but, I am thankful that I received it.
    Love has inhibited the function of my filter for incoming and outgoing thoughts and actions and thus the title of a book comes to mind “Thoughts Without a Thinker–Epstein” as the best explanation for my actions and words now and in the past. Thank God I know now who creates the best thoughts.

  8. September 3, 2009 4:27 pm

    May I offer another perspective?

    “Preach the Gospel at all times, if necessary use words.” Attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, this quote is often used to emphasize the importance of the silent witness, the implicit or wordless sharing of faith that Catholics can give to others by living the Gospel of Jesus’ love in everyday life. Church teaching affirms this aspect of faith sharing: “Through this wordless witness these Christians stir up irresistible questions in the hearts of those who see how they live… Such a witness is already a silent proclamation of the Good News and a very powerful and effective one. Here we have an initial act of evangelization….” (Pope Paul VI, Evangelization in the Modern World, 21)

    But “wordless witness” is only “an initial act of evangelization.” There is more. There is another equally important aspect to faith sharing—explicit speaking about how we encounter Jesus Christ in our daily lives. We are called to share openly about how scripture and Catholic teaching connect with our life experiences at home, in the neighborhood, the workplace, the community, as well as in Church ministries, committee meetings, and small groups. Pope Paul VI continues, “Nevertheless this [wordless witness] always remains insufficient, because even the finest witness will prove ineffective in the long run if it is not explained, justified…and made explicit by a clear and unequivocal proclamation of the Lord Jesus. The Good News proclaimed by the witness of life sooner or later has to be proclaimed by the word of life. There is no true evangelization if the name, the teaching, the life, the promises, the kingdom and the mystery of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God are not proclaimed….” (EMW, 22)

    It seems to me that, as in many things Catholic, we are called to radical love “and” to speak of the promises of Jesus–to share the encounters with Christ that make us his disciples.

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