Has this ever happened to you? You’re watching a movie or a TV show. Somewhere close to the end of the show, your spouse walks into the living room. He or she gets drawn into the show and asks, “What’s this story about?” When the show breaks for a commercial, you have two minutes to sum up everything that went on before.
In a nutshell, that’s evangelization. By the way we act and talk, people get drawn into our story—which is actually the story of God’s reign. They get curious, and they ask us a question. But they don’t want a theology lesson. They don’t want to hear salvation history. They don’t want to hear about Real Presence and transubstantiation. You have about two minutes, maybe less, to tell them the core of the story in a way that fans the flame of their interest.
So what is the core story?
The General Directory for Catechesis lays it out pretty clearly, but we have to take the outline we find there and make it real. We have to use the outline of the core story of God’s reign and learn how to tell it through the story of our own lives.
The GDC starts out by saying this: “The message of Jesus about God is Good News for humanity” (101). So our story has to sound like good news. The GDC goes on to say: “Jesus proclaimed the Kingdom of God, a new and definitive intervention by God, with a transforming power equal and even superior to his creation of the world” (101).
Okay, let that sink in for a minute. I’ve been watching Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, which is a scientific documentary about the creation of the universe. Creation is amazing. And now the church is telling us that the “kingdom” or the “reign” that Jesus proclaimed is even more amazing (“how still more wonderful is the new creation” [Roman Missal, Easter Vigil, prayer after the first reading, the story of creation]).
Jesus said and did six things to underline just how amazing this new intervention by God is in our lives (see GDC 102).
1. God is not an absent Father
When we tell this part of the story, we have to talk about our close and intimate relationship with God. We don’t talk about “hoping to meet God someday.” We talk about how God is completely and constantly present in every breath we take.
2. There’s nothing to be afraid of
Jesus said that in the reign of God, we are completely safe and completely free. We don’t have to be controlled by addictions, impulses, anger, or fear. We are not even subject to death. We are divine children of God. Imagine what you would do to protect your own children. Now imagine you had divine powers. How much more would you do? Practice telling stories about all the ways in which God has saved you from harm.
3. Justice and righteousness
Jesus said that in the reign of God, there is complete justice. Those of us raised in the United States sometimes confuse this promise with the promise of equality guaranteed in our constitution. God’s justice and American justice are not the same thing. Think of your children again. You try to be fair with your children, but you don’t always treat them equally. One might need more attention. One might need more money. One might need more medical care. God’s justice is about doing what is right. When you’re telling your story, talk about how God has made things right for you and made things right for the people you love.
4. Jesus is a big deal
God sent Jesus to say and do all these things so we would know the Good News. Jesus is so completely one with God’s reign that Jesus himself is the complete realization of the reign of God. By knowing Jesus, we know everything there is to know about God’s amazing new intervention in the world. Our job is to tell the story of how we came to know Jesus and how knowing Jesus has changed our lives.
5. We are a big deal, too
Everything that Jesus said about how he is the realization and revelation of God’s reign Jesus also said about his community of disciples. We aren’t perfect at it, and sometimes we aren’t even good at it. But we get better, bit by bit, at carrying on Jesus’ mission to announce the Good News of God’s amazing new intervention in the world.
6. It only gets better from here
Jesus said that while all these things are true, we are still going to experience pain, sadness, and disappointment. The whole world hasn’t yet heard or taken seriously the Good News and so there is still work to do. Even within ourselves, the divine children of God, we forget or slip up. All of us still have work to do within ourselves as well. But on the whole, we are on the right path. We are moving toward perfection. And when that happens…wow! Life will be even more amazing! If you believe that, it’s almost a sin not to go out and tell other people about it.
Share your story
These six elements are the way that Jesus communicated the core story of God’s Good News. How are you continuing to tell the story to inquirers who become curious about Christianity? How will you use your “two minutes”?