When looking at Evangelisation, there are three stories from the New Testament which provide valuable insights.
Three stories of Evangelisation from the Gospels:
Mary Visits Elizabeth
(Lk 1: 39 – 56) [read text here]
In the story of the Visitation, Church tradition often refers to Mary as “the first missionary”. In this scripture, Mary has only just discovered that she is miraculously pregnant with a child who is the Son of God, and who will be the saviour king that her people have been waiting for. She visits Elizabeth, who is also expecting a child: the future John the Baptist. When Mary greets Elizabeth, Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit, and her unborn child leaps for joy because Jesus is present.
Mary brought with her the unborn Jesus, and the Good News that God had finally sent the Saviour. In a similar way, an evangelist brings with them something very precious: the good news of God’s love, an invitation to come to know Jesus personally, and the testimony of the saving power of Jesus. Just as Elizabeth and John the Baptist were filled with the Spirit and joy in the presence of Jesus, the Good News of Jesus Christ is the source of deep joy when it is received into the heart.
Jesus’ First Disciples
(Jn 1: 19 – 50) [read text here]
Thirty years later Jesus called his first disciples. The story is told by St John the Evangelist.
This passage begins with the ministry of John the Baptist. One day, John sees Jesus walking nearby and exclaims, “Behold, the Lamb of God, the one who will take away the sins of the world.” Hearing these strange words, two of John’s disciples become curious and follow Jesus at a distance. Jesus notices them, and turns to face them. “What do you want?” he asks.
The two men must have been caught off-guard, embarrassed for having been discovered, because their reply seems ridiculous: “We want to know where you live…” they stutter. Maybe it was the only answer that came to mind. .
To their surprise, Jesus does not rebuke them. “Come, and you will see.” Accepting his invitation, they spend the whole day with Him and discover that he is the Christ.
When they leave Jesus, one of the two men, Andrew, the future saint and Apostle, immediately runs off to find his brother, Peter. Andrew tells him, “We have found the Messiah!” and brings him to see Jesus. (Peter, as we know, is never the same again, later becoming the leader of the Apostles and the Church’s first pope.)
The next day, as Jesus leaves the town, he meets a young man named Philip. Jesus invites Philip to follow him. Philip agrees, but first runs off to find his friend, Nathaniel. Philip tells him about Jesus, and how he is the one that the prophets have been writing about. Nathaniel is sceptical at first, but trusts Philip’s word and comes to see Jesus for himself, to figure out what’s going on. When he meets Jesus, Nathaniel realises that Philip was right, and the two friends follow Christ and become two of Jesus’ Apostles.
In this story, Andrew and Philip were both men who were waiting for the messiah promised by the prophets. When they met Jesus, they were convinced that he was everything that they were waiting for: the hope-filled words of the prophets finally coming true! News like that was too exciting for them to just keep to themselves; there was no way they could keep quiet about it! They had to tell their friends!
Jesus talks with a Samaritan Woman
(Jn 4: 1 – 42) [read text here]
Lastly, the Gospel of John tells the story of Jesus speaking with the Samaritan woman at the well.
In this story, Jesus is travelling, and at around midday he enters a town and meets a Samaritan woman at a well. This woman is an outcast in her community – she is disgraced by her living situation, and she is shunned by the town. She visits the well alone, during the hottest part of the day when everyone else is indoors. She is probably trying to avoid the other women who use the well, because they might laugh at her or gossip about her behind her back. She is embarrassed to be seen. Yet, Jesus talks to her: he offers her the promise of living water that will quench her thirst forever and shows that he is a prophet by telling her about her own hidden sins. Finally he reveals that he is the Messiah she has been waiting for.
Hearing this, she cannot keep still! There she was, a Samaritan, a woman, a sinner and an outcast. Any other Jewish man might have spat on her, or pretended she was not even there. But not this man, Jesus – not only had he spoken to her (and with great love), but he had also revealed himself to be the Saviour of the world!
In fact, her encounter with Jesus impacts her so much that she leaves her water jar behind and runs back to the town, full of joy and compelled to share what she has received with everyone – even with the same townspeople who had rejected her.
These three scenes from Scripture all help to paint a picture of Evangelisation. But what exactly is evangelisation, and what does it have to do with us as Catholic Christians?