August/September 2009 - Vol. 32

Salt of the Empire: The Role of the Christian Family in Evangelization,
by Mike Aquilina, continued

The Good Samaritan by Stephen Sawyer

Luminous Grace
5. Cultivate the virtue of hope. Divine grace has unlimited power. It can transform persons; it can and has transformed cultures. As parents, as parishioners, and as neighbors, we have to believe in miracles. We have to believe that people can change. It is too easy for us to believe that many people are hopelessly lost, have been by the culture or their own lives irremediably inoculated against the gospel. But this is simply not true. Read the agnostic Rodney Stark: Miracles do happen, people do change, towns and cities and nations can convert to Christianity at the rate of 40 percent per decade.

6. Live by the teachings of the Church. We need to raise our homes up to the standards of Jesus Christ and his Church. It is a high standard, but the alternatives today are deadly. The early Christians did not convert the empire by compromising with the empire’s ideas of family life. They did not compromise on divorce, contraception, abortion, infanticide, or homosexual activity.

The early Christians hated these sins, even as they passionately loved the sinners who committed these sins – the sinners who lived in their neighborhoods. We, too, need to hate these sins and keep them far from our own homes. But we need also to help other homes, other families to live according to Jesus’ teachings. We need to evangelize the families who need us. If we do not, then we can count ourselves with the priest and the Levite in the parable of the Good Samaritan, who passed by the man in the ditch.

I close not with a quote from the early Christians but from a contemporary Christian, Pope John Paul II, who in On the Laity (Christifideles Laici) drew a lesson from the early Church as he instructed families in the ways of evangelization:

Animated in its own inner life by missionary zeal, the Church of the home is also called to be a luminous sign of the presence of Christ and of his love for those who are “far away,” for families who do not yet believe, and for those Christian families who no longer live in accordance with the faith that they once received. The Christian family is called to enlighten “by its example and its witness . . . those who seek the truth.”
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[This article was originally published in Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity, May 2004. Touchstone is a monthly ecumenical journal which endeavors to promote doctrinal, moral, and devotional orthodoxy among Roman Catholics, Protestants, and Orthodox. Copyright © 2004 the Fellowship of St. James. Used with permission.].

Mike Aquilina, a Roman Catholic, has written numerous articles and several books on church history and especially patristics, including The Fathers of the Church (1999, 2006). He was editor of New Covenant Magazine from 1996 to 2002. 

Mike is executive vice president of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology. His blog, The Way of the Fathers.

He and his wife Terri live in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA. They have six children. 

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