Although not all of us are Catholic, I live in a family where we all, by and large, embrace Christianity. My Protestant in-laws have grown to accept their son’s conversion to Catholicism, and a few of my twentysomething nieces and nephews do not practice their baptismal faith, but they are polite and respectful to those of us who do. I am blessed not to deal with uncomfortable conversations at the Thanksgiving dinner table. For many, though, the upcoming feast brings about a bit of dread knowing that Uncle X or cousin Y or a brother from out-of-town will throw out barbs and jabs while passing the stuffing.
With Thanksgiving just a week away, I thought I’d share this reflection from Pope Benedict XVI on evangelization. In this Year of Faith, I encourage you to prepare for those conversations with prayer, fasting, and practicing out loud your thoughtful responses to the anticipated one-liners or unsolicited comments about this life we lead. As you’re peeling the potatoes or setting the table or filling your grocery cart, pray. Ask the Holy Spirit to fill you with wisdom and discernment. Call on your Guardian Angel to guide you and to help you in the moment,
Jesus exhorts us to be salt and light to a darkened world. The best thing we can do: “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who defame your good conduct in Christ may themselves be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that be the will of God, than for doing evil.” (1 Pet 3:15-16)
Respond to the shepherding of our Holy Father as hard as it might be. You may never know the impact your loving witness may have.
It is a weighty mission, that of evangelization, especially in which humanity suffers from a certain lack of reflection and wisdom, and a humanism is spreading that excludes God. For this reason it is even more urgent and necessary to illuminate new problems that arise with the light of the Gospel that does not change. In fact, we are convinced that the Lord Jesus Christ, faithful witness of the Father’s love, by his death and Resurrection, is the principal driving force behind the authentic development of every person and of all humanity. At the beginning of my ministry as the Successor of the Apostle Peter I strongly affirmed: “the purpose of our lives is to reveal God to men…And only where God is seen does life truly begin. Only when we meet the living God in Christ do we know what life is…There is nothing more beautiful than to be surprised by the Gospel, by the encounter with Christ. There is nothing more beautiful than to know him and to speak to others of our friendship with him.” Preaching the Gospel is an invaluable service that the Church can offer to the whole of humanity that journeys through history…The mission of proclaiming the Gospel to all peoples entails a critical judgment of the worldwide transformations that are now substantially changing humanity’s culture. The Church present and active on the geographical and anthropological frontiers bears a message that has been passed down through history, in which she proclaims inalienable human values, with the proclamation and witness of God’s saving plan made visible and operative in Christ. Preaching the Gospel is the call of God’s children to freedom, to the construction of an ever more just and solidary society, and to our preparation for eternal life. Whoever participates in Christ’s mission must inevitably face tribulation, conflict and suffering, because they will come up against the resistance and the powers of this world…Evangelization needs Christians with their arms raised toward God in prayer, Christians moved by the knowledge that the conversion of the world to Christ is not brought about by us, but given to us.
Pope Benedict XVI
Magnificat, Vol. 14, No. 8, pg 298-299