Growing up Baptist, the phrase “living the Gospel” had a very specific meaning.
It meant showing up to church every time the doors were open.
It meant attending every Church function.
It meant never missing a Sunday School class, bible study, or devotional.
It meant socializing with only other Baptists.
It meant only reading Christian books, watching Christian movies, and listening to Christian music.
It meant revolving your entire life around the church you attended, taking every mission opportunity you could, and talking about Jesus every. single. second.
It was exhausting, honestly. And it’s no wonder that most of my time as a Baptist was spent in a spiral of fear and doubt. Was I really saved? Was I Christian enough? Can I really not listen to Blink-182? Is it okay to have atheist friends? What if I don’t like Christian music simply because it’s bad, not because it’s Christian?
Living the Gospel felt like a massive undertaking, one that seemed almost unbearable.
And then — flash forward a few years — Catholicism happened.
I’ve written before about how becoming Catholic made me question everything I’d ever believed in, from my approach to the faith, to politics, and beyond. I discovered that living the Gospel was much bigger, much larger, much more broad than I’d ever thought.
The Catholic Works of Mercy — both Corporal and Spiritual — helped me understand that my feelings, my empathy, my convictions were not the Devil leading me into the world and away from God, but rather God leading me into the world where he needed me to . . . live the Gospel.
With this newfound direction, I am free to be socially active in my community, to work on behalf of the less fortunate and the homeless. I can demonstrate, I can write, I can support political causes and movements that I feel will benefit those who need it the most. And I do this out of conviction to . . . live the Gospel.
And in addition to living the Gospel, the Catholic Church has taught me to spread it as well; something that can’t be done if we only associate with other believers. Our Church provides us with a rich history of examples — members of the faithful — who went out into the world to share the message of God’s love with non-believers, starting with the first missionary, St. Paul.
Pope Paul VI, recently beatified by Pope Francis, encouraged the faithful to follow in the footsteps of our early Church fathers. “Is there any other way of handing on the Gospel than by transmitting to another person’s one’s personal experience of faith?” We must trust God to guide us to those opportunities where we can share the Gospel and . . . live the Gospel . . . but first we must walk out the Parish door and into the world.