I don’t know about you, but I can tend to get impatient with the process of evangelization — with building relationships, with “planting seeds,” with accompaniment, with persevering in prayer. I want to see more results quicker. For this reason, it is important for me to hold on tightly to hope. Hope helps me persevere in the mission.
A critical breakthrough of hope came for me when I reflected more deeply upon the Church’s theology of redemption. Specifically, my hope grew when I considered the truth that our work of intercession and evangelization flows from God’s desire for the salvation of all (see 1 Timothy 2:1-7), and His plan “to sum up all things in Christ, in heaven and on earth” (Ephesians 1:10). In Jesus, God is drawing everyone to Himself (see John 12:32). Therefore when we participate in the work of redemption — by evangelizing, and praying for others — we are participating in a work that is already being carried out as God sends the Holy Spirit into the world for its salvation. In his 1990 encyclical on the missionary mandate, Redemptoris Missio, Saint John Paul II implicitly, but no less clearly, makes this connection:
As the Council teaches, “by his Incarnation, he, the Son of God, in a certain way united himself with each man.” The Church therefore sees its fundamental task in enabling that union to be brought about and renewed continually. The Church wishes to serve this single end: that each person may be able to find Christ, in order that Christ may walk with each person the path of life, with the power of the truth about man and the world that is contained in the mystery of the Incarnation and the Redemption and with the power of the love that is radiated by that truth.Redemptoris Missio 13
Because through the Holy Spirit Christ has “in a certain way united himself with each man,” therefore the Church sees her task as bringing about that unity between Christ and each person. God’s effective, saving love for all motivates us to evangelization and intercession, and empowers it. In fact, God works through us for the salvation of the world — He makes us instruments in His hands. He accomplishes this through the gift of the Spirit who enlivens us and sends us out on mission.
Therefore, we can have hope. The conversion and salvation of people has much less to do with our own competence and effectiveness and much more to do with God’s power and plan, and His grace working in people’s hearts. Although we should strive to make ourselves better instruments of salvation for God to use us, we also should practice a certain degree of detachment from seeing “results.” For God has as many instruments to use as He has followers (and even more!). It doesn’t all rest on any one person. Likewise, the work is carried out not only by preaching and witnessing, but also by prayer, obtaining grace to prepare hearts to accept the truth. Hope comes in knowing that God is in charge; and He is not weak or unwilling to save.
Click here for Part Two.