By Joseph Hollcraft
Joseph Hollcraft, founder of Seeds of Truth Ministries, is an adjunct professor to the Avila Institute and host of the Seeds of Truth radio program. He is the author of A Heart for Evangelizing, available through Emmaus Road Publishing.
One of the first toys my wife and I bought for our first-born son, Kolbe, was a loud, movable excavator. He played with that excavator over and over again. Kolbe would break for lunch and then go back to the excavator. He would break for dinner and then go back to the excavator.
This enraptured play went on for weeks, until, one day, Kolbe had a play date with a friend—his first since we bought the toy excavator. I wondered aloud to my wife, “Let’s see if he shares the toy today.” Not knowing how he’d react to having his uninterrupted time with the toy infringed upon, we waited with interest.
To my surprise and delight, Kolbe not only shared his toy excavator with his friend, but he also managed to demonstrate all its different features. They spent their whole play date enjoying and sharing the toy excavator in the sand.
In this ordinary situation, Kolbe demonstrated an essential truth of the Christian’s faith journey: We are called to embrace the gift of our Baptism, and we are called to the joyful task of sharing this great gift of faith and all of its aspects. There are no better words to express the Catholic mission than those of the early Church Father St. Irenaeus of Lyon: “The glory of God is man fully alive.” To be fully alive in God is to be awakened to the dynamism of the Holy Spirit, which empowers us to give glory to God in all we do.
The gift of Baptism is the gift of relationship. In Baptism, we are adopted into God’s family and, having “received the spirit of sonship,” we can cry “Abba! Father!” (Rom 8:15). Abba is Aramaic for Father and a term of endearment. We might equate it with “daddy” or “papa.” This intimate language evokes the surrender and deep personal entrustment you find a toddler has for his parents. We are to exemplify this same kind of child-like trust in God the Father.
Embracing the gift of sonship granted through Baptism simultaneously directs us to exist for others. This is holiness—the vocation that sets us apart. We’ve all experienced situations where our fervor draws people within our circles to ask questions, which leads to new beginnings, another embrace of the gift of faith, and so on. This cycle reflects the fundamental structure of the divine law: love of God, then man. The Church does not proclaim that love of God excludes love of neighbor. Love of neighbor must— can only—flow from love of God. We cannot truly love God without loving those whom He has created in His image.
Think about the revelation of divine law in Sacred Scripture. The first three commandments, given by God to Moses, pertain to love and worship of God. Commandments four through ten are all related to love and respect for neighbors. Similarly, Christ Himself tells us that the greatest commandment is, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matt 22:37). And after that, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (v 39). These commandments, the greatest commandments, allow our baptismal vocation to be fully realized in our lives. Therefore, it is imperative that we satisfy this sequence of love: God, then man.
Although it is the universal vocation of the Christian to bear witness to his or her gift of life in God and to proclaim this life in word and deed, some of us are called to a particular vocation that requires a more formalized way of living out our Sacrament of Baptism.
For some of us, our love of God is demonstrated through decisions we have made to serve Him and His Church. Catechists, religious educators, and evangelists all share a common experience of God’s love, and their response flows from glorifying God, as St. Irenaeus would have us do, through actions that draw others into a loving relationship with God. To love our neighbor means, most of all, that we care about their eternal salvation.
No matter our level of experience, everyone who participates in the task of evangelization requires time for prayer, reflection, and renewal. It is a humbling paradox that those who are involved in the spiritual formation of others also require continual formation. In our families, parishes, ministries, and classrooms, we can be so consumed with concern for those we are serving that we might occasionally neglect our own spiritual needs. “Unless the missionary is a contemplative, he cannot proclaim Christ in a credible way,” asserted Pope St. John Paul II in his first encyclical, Redemptor hominis.
Evangelizing, our great gift and task, truly is for everyone.
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“The gift of Baptism is the gift of relationship.” As Joseph Hollcraft reflects in A Heart for Evangelizing, it is this relationship which orders our hearts, minds, and actions toward eternal union with a loving heavenly Father. Hollcraft offers reflections on holiness and evangelization—the cornerstones of the Christian vocation—and applies these themes to nearly every aspect of life. Personal, theological, and spiritual formation are ardently encouraged in A Heart for Evangelizing.