We’re all called to evangelize
Every Christians is charged with bringing the Good News of Jesus Christ to the world . . .
Every Christian is called to share the Good News of Christ according to his or her individual gifts and station in life. This is why our Catholic faith is called “apostolic.”
All other great religious teachers subordinated themselves to their message. They pointed away from themselves to their teachings. For instance, Buddha said, “Look not to me, look to my dharma [doctrine, teaching].” But Christ said, “Come to me” (Mt 11:28). Buddha said, “Be lamps unto yourselves.” But Christ said, “I am the light of the world” (Jn 9:5). Moses and Muhammad claimed only to be prophets of God; Jesus claimed to be God (Jn 8:58).
Any other religion could survive the loss of its founder. If Muhammad or Buddha or Confucius were proved to be mythical and not historical figures, the religions that stem from them might still survive. But Christianity could never survive without Christ. For other religious founders only claimed to teach the truth; Christ claimed to be the Truth (Jn 14:6).
The Church’s claim of superiority over other religions is not for herself but for her Lord. And therefore, as Christ commanded her, she “has the obligation and also the sacred right to evangelize” (Ad Gentes Divinitus, 7). Thus, the Church is apostolic because of her mission, her “apostolate” to evangelize, and because she is “built upon the foundation of the apostles” (Eph 2:20), who ordained their successors (bishops) as Christ had ordained them. “The bishops have by divine institution taken the place of the apostles as pastors of the Church, in such wise that whoever listens to them is listening to Christ and whoever despises them despises Christ” (Lumen Gentium 20 § 3).
Not only the bishops, but “the whole Church is apostolic. All members of the Church share in this mission, though in various ways” (CCC 863). “The transmission of the Christian faith consists primarily in proclaiming Jesus Christ in order to lead others to faith in him. From the beginning, the first disciples burned with the desire to proclaim Christ” (CCC 425). Yet you cannot teach what you do not know. You cannot give what you do not have. The primary requirement for any Christian teacher, preacher, evangelist or catechist is not just to know about Christ but to know Christ. “Whoever is called ‘to teach Christ’ must first seek ‘the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus’” (CCC 428).
This column is reprinted with permission from the book “Catholic Christianity: A Complete Catechism of Catholic Beliefs Based on the Catechism of the Catholic Church” (Ignatius Press, 2001). Peter Kreeft, a professor of philosophy at Boston College, is the best-selling author of over 63 books.