Christ Through an Authentic Witness of the Faith and
an Ever-Greater Understanding of Its Contents
by Curtis A. MartinPresident
Fellowship of Catholic University Students
wish to confirm once more that the task of evangelizing all people constitutes
the essential mission of the Church." . . .Evangelizing is in fact the grace and
vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity. She exists in order to
(Pope Paul VI, Evangelization in the Modern World [Evangelii Nuntiandi (EN)] www.vatican.va/holy_father
a typical classroom, a teacher turns to his students and asks, "Who can tell me
the difference between ignorance and apathy?" After some time, no one answers.
He repeats the question, but once more he receives no response. Finally,
somewhat exasperated, he turns to one of the students and says, "Bethany, tell
the class the difference between ignorance
and apathy." The young woman thinks
for a moment, looks up and responds, "I don't know and I don't care."
work of evangelization must address both the problem of ignorance and that of
apathy. Recognizing the distinct challenges
presented by each of these impediments is an important starting point. If
people do not care, no amount of teaching will solve the problem, but once they
care, teaching the content of the faith is an indispensable and irreplaceable
component to leading people to the fullness of faith.
and every one of us is made by Love and made for love. God has created us in
such a way that we have a compelling desire for truth, goodness, beauty, and
love. To overcome apathy, we must draw men and women beyond the distractions of
this life and invite them to encounter the reality for which they were created.
As Catholics, we have discovered that the transcendent
does not refer to mere abstractions; it exists, in perfection, in a Person. The
first step in evangelization is an encounter with Jesus Christ, who came for
you, lived for you, suffered and died for you, and rose again to heaven where he
waits for you.
is not sufficient to know about Jesus Christ. We must come to encounter him as
a living person. While this encounter can take many forms, in its essence the
encounter with Jesus Christ moves from an object for our consideration to a
subject with whom we enter into personal relationship.
of it this way. As Catholics, we have a relationship with the pope. He is the
earthly leader of the Church, and we are members of the Church. We pray for him
at every Mass in the Eucharistic Prayer, and we develop a sense of closeness to
him that is evidenced by the warm reception he receives throughout the world.
But imagine that you went to Rome and were standing in the audience as he came
by. As he passed, he reached out his hand and touched you. This would create a
memory that would last a lifetime. But what if instead of just shaking your
hand, he stopped, came over, and called you by name. He asked you to meet with
him. When you met, he told you that he had heard of you and was aware of your
family and of your interests and concerns. He invited you to begin meeting with
him regularly and to help him with his work, and he offered to assist you with
yours. Your relationship had moved from real, but formal, to one that was
intimate and personal.
all Catholics have a relationship with Jesus Christ. Many of us, however,
experience this relationship as formal and not personal. Jesus, unlike the
pope, is not limited in his ability to enter into an intimate and personal
relationship with each of us, and he is inviting each of us to know him
intimately and personally.
are told in the Catechism, "Jesus
knew and loved us each and all during his life, his agony, and his Passion and
gave himself up for each one of us: 'The Son of God . . . loved me and gave
himself for me'" (Catechism of the
Catholic Church [CCC], 2nd ed. [Washington, DC: Libreria Editrice
Vaticana–United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2000], no. 478).
other words, our salvation is a deeply personal undertaking on the part of
Jesus. Our response, likewise, ought to be deeply personal, meeting him in a
personal encounter, bringing about a reorientation in our life. We begin to
care for the things he does. Once love has taken hold of us, we are eager to
learn how we can know him and love him in ever increasing ways.
Catechism of the Catholic Church
represents an authoritative self-understanding of the Catholic Church. Before
any of the 2,865 articles proposed for belief, the Catechism begins with three short quotes. The very first words of
the Catechism directly quote Jesus
Christ. "Father, . . . this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only
true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent (Jn 17:3)" (CCC, p. 7).
this seminal statement, we can see that Catholicism, according to our founder's
own understanding, is essentially relational. In fact, the Hebrew word for
"relationship" is yada, "to know." It
is a rich and poignant term. Far beyond knowledge of facts and doctrines, even
beyond relational familiarity or acquaintance, to yada someone is to be in deep, intimate, life-giving,
life-changing, covenantal relationship with him or her. The first time this
term is used in Sacred Scripture, we read that "Adam knew (yada) his wife, and she conceived" (Gn 4:1 NRSV). Jesus defines eternal life in light of a deep, intimate,
life-giving, life-changing, covenantal relationship with the only true God, and
Jesus whom he sent.
Catechism articulates this in the
very first article. "God, infinitely perfect and blessed in himself, in a plan
of sheer goodness freely created man to make him share in his own blessed life.
For this reason, at every time and in every place, God draws close to man. He
calls man to seek him, to know him, to love him with all his strength. He calls
together all men, scattered and divided by sin, into the unity of his family,
the Church" (CCC, no. 1).
awakens desire. Once we encounter the person of Jesus, we desire to want what he
wants. It is love that overcomes, indeed overwhelms, apathy. Our hearts, once
distracted by a thousand lesser loves, encounter the pearl of great price, and
we come to desire him above all things.
dynamic connection between love and truth is manifested at the most pivotal of
moments in history. Jesus himself, while on trial for his life, tells us the
very reason for his birth. "So Pilate said to him, 'Then you are a king?' Jesus
answered, 'You say that I am a king. For this I was born and for this I came
into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens
to my voice'" (Jn 18:37).
often, we educators within the Church have skipped this step of awakening
desire. We begin the vitally important work of instruction without first having
addressed the issue of yearning. Even the most sumptuous of meals will have
little appeal to someone who is not hungry. But, for someone who is famished,
food always seems to taste better. If we desire to instruct the mind, we must first
awaken the heart.
someone has encountered Jesus, he or she wants to follow him. This desire
creates an opening for instruction and formation. The content of the faith is
presented to respond to two basic questions: First, what ought I know, so that
I can think with the mind of Christ? Second, in what ought I be formed so that
I can act with the character of Christ? Christian instruction informs the mind
with the truths of the faith. Christian formation introduces believers to the
virtues and character traits that will allow them, with the aid of God's grace,
to live as men and women of whom the world is not worthy (see Heb 11:38).
is free to act in any way that he chooses; however, he has given us a norm for
spreading the faith. "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing
them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching
them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to
the close of the age" (CCC, no. 2; see also Mt 28:18-20).
this "Great Commission," we are instructed not to go and make converts, or
believers, but to make disciples. Disciples are those who have experienced an
encounter with Jesus and have turned to follow him. They are on the path of
discipleship and are being instructed and formed in the practice of the faith.
Their very lives are an authentic witness to what it means to be a person of
faith. "Finally, the person who has been evangelized goes on to evangelize
others. Here lies the test of truth, the touchstone of evangelization: it is
unthinkable that a person should accept the Word and give himself to the
kingdom without becoming a person who bears witness to it and proclaims it in
his turn" (EN, no. 24).
New Springtime will be a blossoming of such disciples who know the Lord and
know his teachings. Their lives provide the authentic witness that enables
others to see with the eyes of faith.
© 2013, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Washington, DC. All
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Pope Paul VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi,
copyright © 1975, Libreria Editrice Vaticana (LEV). Used with permission. All
Unless otherwise noted, Scripture excerpts used in
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Some Scripture quotations contained herein are
adapted from the Revised Standard Version
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Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ
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Excerpts from the Catechism of the
Catholic Church, second edition, copyright © 2000, Libreria Editrice
Vaticana—United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Washington, DC. Used with
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