“Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.” -St. Francis of Assisi. Beautiful.
Except he never said it. “Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.” conveys a very honorable sentiment. Our lives should be a living testament to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We should live radically. We should give generously. We should be known by our love.
Unfortunately it can be easy to use this phrase an excuse to not preach the Gospel with words. I’m here to tell you the unpopular truth that words are ALWAYS necessary when it comes to the Gospel. This has become an excuse to not impose our religion on others. We think people will just know that Jesus is Lord by our actions… somehow.
Don’t get me wrong, I actually really like this statement, whoever it was that said it (again, not actually St. Francis). But it means something totally different than what we think it means. I think it means that we should live SO radically, give SO generously, and love SO boldly that people can’t help but ask “What the heck? Why do you do those things???” We should be living in such a way that it seems strange how little regard we have for ourselves and how much regard we have for our neighbor and for the poorest among us.
When we live life like this, it will be necessary to use words often. We won’t be imposing our religion on people. We’ll be inviting them into the joy and love that we enjoy as Christians. But this takes courage on our part. We as Catholics are crippled by a sort of silence. It’s like “He Who Shall Not Be Named” is Jesus. What kind of culture are we living with when I can tangibly compare Jesus Christ to Lord Voldemort? It’s a sad reality that we live in such a relativistic culture that to proclaim the truth and freedom that can be found in Jesus Christ is so often labeled as judgmental and intolerant, but that’s why love and witness must come first. Don’t witness at the expense of sharing the Good News, but in conjunction with it. That’s how our loved ones will come to know the One who loves them and made them for Himself.
-Amanda Nobis, Director of Evangelization