The religious community is sometimes referred to as 'people-of-the-way'. They are people who try to follow the way of Jesus Christ. For them there is no navigation system that indicates exactly which route to take in order to reach the goal.
On Monday, 18 December 2017, Brother Jan Koppens attended the meeting of the Diocesan Laity Council* of the diocese of Den Bosch (the Netherlands). Brother Jan Koppens has been a member of this lay council for 5 years. For the meeting of December 18th he had the honour to give an introduction on the subject of evangelism. Some extracts from his text:
Looking for love
“My vocation brought me to another culture, where I also got to know other religions, with a different perspective on the world and on God. It was a time of grace for me as a human being and as a lay-religious. and I am still grateful for this. Through these personal experiences and developments, I can now express the Joyful Message as ‘God is love’, and ‘God loves me’ (direct and personal), but also ‘God loves us all’ (He is colour-blind). Slowly but surely, an answer to his love will grow in our daily life. It will determine your attitude to God and to people. It is here that evangelisation starts. I can be a brother for others, and the other will become my brother, my sister.
The religious community is sometimes referred to as ‘people-of-the-way’. They are people who try to follow the way of Jesus Christ. For them there is no navigation system that indicates exactly which route to take in order to reach the goal. People-of-the-way are those who try to listen to God’s Spirit, who let themselves be touched and who, from that contact with others, go on their way, groping and searching.
The ‘lay people’ have a major role to play in evangelisation. We experience how complex our world is. We are invited to listen to this world of today. Evangelization is not a monopoly of priests and deacons. Together with the clergy, lay people are people-of-the-way, and each of them has a specific part and role to play in his or her vocation.
It requires that we listen carefully; that we dare to mention subjects even when they are difficult; that we speak a language that is understood by young and old; that we look for ways to pay attention to families and young people without the urge to convert them; that we are looking for ways to do catechesis in a language that is understood by people of today’s world; that we try to take very concrete, small steps, together, if big steps are not (yet) possible. “Don’t be afraid,” He says.
Starting with self-evangelization
We all know the slogan ‘improve the world; start with yourself’. A variant in the context of evangelization is: ‘improve the church; start with yourself’. The windows and doors of our religious community will only open up if we start evangelization at ourselves. From the experience of our own conversion we can go out to others, not with fine words or beautiful theories, but with the language and attitude of merciful love, which is understood by everyone. Those people become our people, our brothers and sisters who, like us, are people-of-the-way.”
Brother Jan Koppens CMM
* The Diocesan Laity Council is an advisory panel for the bishop. The members are lay people from different parts of ecclesiastical and social life. They have experience in the field of mission, training and management. The bishop discusses with this group what is going on in society and how people think about church and faith. The discussion in the Diocesan Laity Council is aimed at understanding the signs of time.