“Everyone should be able to experience the joy of being loved by God, the joy of salvation! It is a gift that one cannot keep to oneself, but it is to be shared” -Pope Francis, World Mission Day 2013
“Are you getting enough nuts in there?” asked Michael’s aunt as she threw dates and chestnuts at the newly married couple. No, this was not a new way of receiving the wedding couple as they exited the church. It was one part of Paebek, a traditional Korean rice wine ceremony at the reception.
Parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles took turns sitting across from Michael and Leena imparting advice. After sharing words of wisdom, the relatives tossed dates and chestnuts into a fabric held between the couple. In Korean culture, chestnuts represent the number of boys and dates represent the number of girls that the couple will have. By ceremony’s end, I am pretty sure Michael and Leena were in for about 64 children.
For Michael and Leena, the rice wine ceremony was an important part of their celebration as was their traditional Catholic nuptial Mass. As Leena walked down the aisle, Michael wept with love for his bride. Leena too cried with joy for her soon-to-be husband. You would be hard-pressed to find a dry eye amidst all those gathered to help them celebrate.
There was a richness to the way Michael and Leena’s shared their love, both in the Catholic Mass and in the rice wine ceremony. They brought together people from around the world and traditions from places near and far, all to demonstrate their commitment to one another and to God.
It was the kind of richness that has a physical manifestation, the feeling that your heart might leap right out of your chest with excitement, hope and anticipation. The kind where all of your emotions rest suspended at the top of your throat, ready to burst at the seams.
This sense of overwhelming joy is but a taste of the eternal joy we will all experience in Heaven. This is the kind of joy that Michael and Leena shared with their wedding guests.
And it is this joy that we are all called to proclaim in our everyday lives.
Wait. We have to proclaim something? That sounds an awful lot like evangelizing, you might say.
Evangelizing can be a contentious term. “I don’t want someone to push their beliefs on me” and “I don’t want to push my beliefs onto somebody else” are two popular statements that challenge the mission of evangelization. We might know someone who tarnished the term for us in the past. We might be exposed to ways of evangelizing that make us uncomfortable. These are valid concerns.
Yet, we are all called to love. To love one another. To show the world what that love looks like in word, deed and attitude. When we start with love, we naturally evangelize, not through argumentative conversation, but simply by showing others that we care.
Michael and Leena showed the world what love looks like on their wedding day.
As we think about Pope Francis\’ message from World Mission Day, I invite all of you to simply consider evangelizing through your love. Maybe that means reaching out to a neighbor or friend in need. Perhaps it means reconnecting with family members. Maybe it means volunteering in your community. What would happen if we thought of evangelization as simply embracing the love of God and showing that love to those around us?
“He said to them, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature” -Mark 16:15