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Four Characteristics for the Evangelist

Four Characteristics for the Evangelist

By Fr. Enan Zelinski, Parochial Vicar

We recently heard in the Gospel of Luke the account of Simon Peter, James, and John being called by Jesus to abandon their lives as fishermen and to become Christ’s disciples. The work that these men would undertake for the rest of their lives was to spread the Good News – the Gospel – of Jesus Christ. This work, called evangelization, is a work that each and every member of the Church is called to do, carrying on the mission of those first Apostles. This mission is not always easy and it is often accompanied by many frustrations and seeming failures. Nevertheless, it is a mission from which we are never exempted as Christians and we must never stop speaking about Jesus to the world.

In a reflection on this Call of Peter, Dr. Brant Pitre highlights four characteristics of these first Apostles, characteristics that they would possess as professional fishermen, which would also serve them well as evangelists. Reflecting on these four traits, and striving to foster them in our own lives, we can learn from these early Apostles about the work of evangelization. (Cf. Catholic Productions “The Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time: Year C”, Dr. Brant Pitre)

The first characteristic is that fishermen are observant. In order to be effective at their profession, they must be able to read the weather, water, and movement patterns of fish. Similarly, we as evangelists must be observant in our work of preaching and teaching the truth of Jesus Christ. The people we will encounter in everyday life will come from a diversity of backgrounds and we must remain attentive to that in order to speak the truth of the Gospel to the concrete reality and situations of their lives. If this is not done, the Gospel will remain an abstract and distant concept without effect.

Secondly, fishermen must be patient. Fishing includes many hours, days, and nights of “unsuccessful”, monotonous work (see Luke 5). In order to eventually catch the fish they desire, they must wait patiently. The same is true of us as evangelists and disciples. Our desire for the conversion of hearts and minds to Christ must always have a profound patience which accompanies it. It is ultimately God who brings faith to the heart, so we must patiently await His timing and not be overly concerned with our own metrics of “success.”

Closely related to patience is the virtue of perseverance. The endurance and continual hope which is required to continually cast nets and lines into the water despite the lack of a catch is an absolutely essential trait in a fisherman. We, too, can benefit from this trait. There will be many people who never accept the message of Christ that we want to give them. Even our best efforts at convincing people of the truth of Christ may never produce the fruit that we desire to see. But we must never give up hope or become despondent. God works in mysterious and often extremely hidden ways in human lives. In the work of evangelization, we must hope beyond hope that our efforts are never in vain.

The fourth, and absolutely essential, characteristic of a fisherman is that he is ultimately reliant on God. A man can cast his net night and day, but if God does not supply the fish and also cause them to bite, a catch will never occur. In the same way, we cannot force people to believe the truth of our faith. Only God can give the divine gift of faith in another person. We can testify and share the many evidences and reasons for our personal belief, as we should do frequently and openly, but we can never by our own power cause faith to be born in the heart of another person. Ultimately, we must depend deeply on God to be the source of our missionary work.

All of us are called to spread the Gospel of Christ, who has redeemed us from sin and opened the way to eternal life. Remaining observant, patient, persevering, and reliant on God are all important traits to foster in the work of evangelization, and can sustain us amid the difficulties of preaching the Gospel to a fallen world that does not believe that it needs Jesus Christ.

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