Engaging a Worldview

When it comes to sharing the faith, much of our preparation is interiorly focused. And this makes sense. Before we can share God’s love, we must come to believe in it and respond to it ourselves. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI writes in Deus Caritas Est that believing in God’s love is the “fundamental decision” of a Christian’s life.

Living then as a disciple of Jesus Christ, each of us goes on to grow in the faith, delving deeper into the implications of God’s radical love for us and learning what it means to be conformed to Jesus, to be a true disciple of his. But at some point, if we want to be more effective evangelists, we need to really set out to better and more authentically know the other, to understand and take seriously the convictions that non-believers come to us with.

This can be quite the challenge. I know for myself, it’s hard to remember what it was like to not believe that Jesus Christ’s redeeming act applied to the whole world, including me! But being an un-evangelized person in today’s culture means more than not knowing Christ and his Church—it not simply about filling a void.

Every person we encounter has a narrative about what’s important in life, has a worldview that defines success, has adopted values that help them fit into society, and so forth. As Rev. Thomas G. Long says, “it would be a mistake…to imagine that we are preaching to blank tablets on which the gospel can be freshly inscribed.”

And this is what makes a piece by Rachel Held Evans on CNN’s Belief Blog by Rachel Held Evans worth pondering—her essay gives us a starting point to better understand the desires of the person we are sharing our faith with. Speaking for Millennials (but acknowledging that this applies to other generations as well), she writes:

We want an end to the culture wars.

We want a truce between science and faith.

We want to be known for what we stand for, not what we are against.

We want to ask questions that don’t have predetermined answers.

We want churches that emphasize an allegiance to the kingdom of God over an allegiance to a single political party or a single nation.

We want our LGBT friends to feel truly welcome in our faith communities.

We want to be challenged to live lives of holiness, not only when it comes to sex, but also when it comes to living simply, caring for the poor and oppressed, pursuing reconciliation, engaging in creation care and becoming peacemakers.

What’s your first reaction to her list? Are you jumping off your seat, ready to lovingly respond, “Yes! – that’s part of the beautiful fullness of the Catholic Church!”? Or, are you thinking, “Sigh…I was ready to answer a question about the Real Presence in the Eucharist, but that list!?! Yikes!”?

But here’s the glorious truth—the Catholic Church defies culture wars and cannot be reduced to a single nation-state or political party, relates science and faith, is about little “no’s” to a stronger, larger “yes,” lives with mystery, loves and welcomes all people, and calls every person to authentic holiness in all areas of life. Even though we as sinners and a pilgrim people do not always live up to this fullness, the Church does.

The world is wondering, asking, searching, and desiring. Will we be ready to answer, with our witness of word and deed?

Copyright © 2013, Colleen Vermeulen

Colleen Vermeulen

Colleen Vermeulen

Colleen Reiss Vermeulen, M.Div., M.N.A., blogs, ministers in parish life and lay/deacon formation, and serves as a U.S. Army Reserve officer. She and her husband, Luke, have been married since 2011 and live in Ypsilanti, MI with their two young sons.

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