Happily Even After
Marriage and the New Evangelization
by Stacey Noem
Do you ever wonder what this “New Evangelization” is really all about? I am certainly no expert, but I would say that it is about focusing ourselves more fully on the fact that our faith is fundamentally about a relationship with a person: Jesus. When we have a personal relationship with Jesus, it invites us to something and has implications for our lives. This is what we mean by a life of discipleship.
So, do you think you could describe that relationship to someone in three minutes?
This spring my students and I have been focusing on discipleship as our theme for the semester (using Forming Intentional Disciples by Sherry Weddell). One of our most challenging activities to break open the book was what we called the “elevator pitch.”
Each student had to craft how they might describe the essential saving work of Jesus and how they see it operative in their own lives in three minutes, and make it sound natural for them. Granted, there may not be anything “natural” about this, especially for Catholics. We often shy away from even using the name “Jesus” conversationally, opting more comfortably for “Christ,” if we use any name at all.
But the idea of the exercise is that we should each, as intentional disciples, be ready and able to describe our relationship with Jesus. There will be times, like in an airport or at a large family gathering or at a neighborhood barbeque or, yes, in an elevator, when we will be put on the spot. A window of opportunity will be presented to us, and it might be a very short, small window. With that in mind we need to have a clear articulation of our faith at the ready.
Now, I feel strongly that I cannot ask my students to do something that I, myself, would not do. So during the week that they prepared pitches, I spent a lot of time thinking of how I would do the same.
For me the hardest part was introducing into polite conversation the “Great Story” of Jesus. One of my students actually had a really lovely, gentle opening (which I will likely steal ever after). Here is the rough sketch of my elevator pitch:
I believe God is a God of love. And that is what is meant by the Kingdom of God—it is a place where love prevails. God sent us Jesus, his Son, to be the face of that kingdom and to show us what love looks like. Jesus did this in word and in deed during his life. Because of sin this was seen as such a threatening possibility, such a potentially revolutionary position, so damaging to the status quo, that he was targeted and ultimately put to death for it. But that was not the end of the story, because thanks to Jesus, death does not triumph over life. He rose from the dead. His example of love in the face of persecution, and ultimate self-sacrifice was met with new and abundant life. And I see this same pattern in my life as well, which has implications for how I feel called to live my life. When I struggle or experience challenges with others and can find a way to be loving or self-sacrificing, that sacrifice is always met with new and abundant life.
From there I can cite any number of examples from marriage and family life. For instance, when Joshua and I are disagreeing about something and I completely see his side of it but don’t feel like he is seeing mine, I could remain obstinate. But if I am self-sacrificing enough to acknowledge that I see his side and can name what I understand his perspective to be, often he will thank me and work even harder to understand where I am coming from. This is the Paschal Mystery: sacrifice met with new and abundant life.
We live the Paschal Mystery everyday in marriage. Not only is there Good News to share in this, we are passionate about it. We see that Jesus’ life, death and resurrection sets a pattern for our lives – a pattern we adopted at our Baptism. This is the deepest rhythm to our lives, and we experience it every single day in marriage and family life. Sharing a life together is a continual invitation to live unselfishly, to die to ourselves in love, and to experience the joy of new energy and life.
As Christians, it is not enough to simply understand how our lives conform to Jesus’ Great Story. We participate in this story, and it is such great news that it must be shared. You won’t find me voluntarily striking up conversations in Starbucks with an agenda in mind, but I certainly feel a responsibility to be able to respond when the Spirit is moving and an opportunity presents itself.
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