The second pillar of evangelization is relationships — our relationship with Jesus and our relationship with each other.

Relationships are at the core of every interaction we have.

The Bible provides countless stories about relationships — one could argue that every story in the Bible in some way revolves around relationships. Additionally, there is much advice on how to treat one another and what healthy relationships should be like.

My favorite stories of relationships are from the New Testament, specifically the interactions between Jesus and the people He encountered. Jesus’ words and actions are the epitome of how we need to treat everyone – with love, with compassion, with joy and with mercy.  I am especially touched by Jesus’ explanation about family in Mark 3:31-35.  We are not just acquaintances, friends or parishioners at a particular parish – we are brothers and sisters in Christ. As Christians, we are all family!

Our focus and top priority in every circumstance needs to be about a relationship with Jesus; not about obligation or the institution and its rules. To clarify, the goal of evangelization is not to fill the pews of our churches or increase the weekly offertory; the goal of evangelization is to nurture our personal relationship with Jesus and share it with others. To me, increased Mass attendance and increased offertory are by-products of successful evangelization. As we share our love for knowing Jesus with others, those we encounter will want to encounter Him and there is no better way than through Mass and the Sacraments.

As an active life-long Catholic, I don’t ever remember being encouraged to get to know Jesus. I can very clearly recall reciting memorized prayers, and regurgitating facts, doctrine, and information about Jesus. Don’t get me wrong — catechesis is very important and necessary in the development of our faith, but studying about our faith is not the same as having or living our faith. The old adage — you can’t give what you don’t have — comes to mind. It is hard, if not impossible, to share love or affinity of anything that we don’t personally love ourselves.

Now that it’s January, many people make New Year’s resolutions that typically include things such as getting physically fit, organizing our lives, or getting our financial house in order. I pray that we all take stock in how well we know Jesus and realize that true joy comes from knowing Him.

Sustainable joyfulness, regardless of your circumstance comes from being in communion with our Lord and cannot be achieved through earthly pleasures or materials. May our words and actions mimic how Jesus treated all those he met. Remember, we can change the world and it will happen one person at a time, one family at a time, one relationship at a time.

Stay tuned for the next column of Everyday Evangelization when we will move into the third pillar of evangelization and focus on sharing our faith.
Please contact me with any questions about boosting evangelization efforts at your parish at Thomas.Cronin@rcda.org or by visiting https://www.rcda.org/evangelization and on Instagram: @tom_rcda.