Pope Francis offers a similar message in yesterday's Angelus:
“What does it mean for the Church, for us today, to be disciples of Jesus, lamb of God?” asked Pope Francis. “It is a good task! As Christians we must replace malice with innocence, force with love, pride with humility, and prestige with service. Being disciples of the Lamb means living not like a besieged citadel, but rather as city set on a mountain, open, welcoming and supportive. It does not mean adopting a closed attitude, but rather proposing the Gospel to all, showing by the witness of our lives that following Jesus makes us freer and more joyful”.I think this is Pope Francis's papacy in a nutshell. It is all about joy. The New Evangelization is not about beating people over the head with the stick of truth. It is about living the truth so joyfully that others are drawn to it.
One of the books I loved as a child and loved to read to my own children is Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss. In addition to the fun rhymes, this is the book that urges children to try new foods before rejecting them. Sam-I-am proffers green eggs and ham to another character who is adamant that he will not like them. No matter how they are presented--in a box, with a fox, on a train, in the rain--he does not like green eggs and ham. Sam-I-am never offers an alternative. It must be green eggs and ham. He just keeps smiling and looking for a setting that will make the green eggs and ham appealing. Finally the reluctant diner tries them. And guess what? He likes them!
Perhaps we should approach the New evangelization like Sam-I-am. We are to go out and meet others wherever they are and offer the Good News of Christ, Salvation, and the Church. We are not going to change what we are offering. There will be no watering down of doctrine or changing of teaching. But if we have to meet them in a house with a mouse to get them to try it, then that is what we do. And we will smile as we do it.
We should not judge our evangelization efforts by the immediate results we see. Maybe we will witness an epiphany and a new convert greedily gobbling up every morsel of Church teaching. More likely, we will be completely unaware of any impact of our efforts. We may influence someone to take a small bite. He may be intrigued and set it aside. But he will think about it. And sometime in the future he may again sample it. Instead of a feeding frenzy, his conversion is more like an acquired taste.
We cannot have salvation without the Cross. There is suffering. But we will not win hearts if we have dour faces and exhort others to follow us to the stark prison of Christianity. Pope Francis is telling us to let go of our anger, pride, and malice and live our lives like we really believe the great joy of the Gospel.