“We are told to hide our blemishes because bad news doesn’t evangelize. However, hiding blemishes isn’t evangelization, it’s marketing.”Eric Sammons, Is the Catholic Church a House of Cards?
Eric Sammons and I don’t agree on everything, but this we definitely agree on. Frankly, aren’t we to boast of our crosses — with joy?
An evangelical colleague recently told me I needed to smile more because it’s important always to project happiness for the sake of evangelization. This is a lie. The Christian always has one foot in Heaven and one foot on Earth. We must be joyful, but not stoically so.
By “stoic joy,” what I mean is showing no emotion except happiness. This is a false witness to the gospel. It preaches the prosperity gospel to those looking for the high of emotional happiness as their idol. But God says, “comfort my people” (Isaiah 40:1). St. Paul says “console” (1 Thess 4:18).
To evangelize the world, we must be full of the joy of heaven — the joy of hope that we will be saved — but that joy itself implies that this world is something to be sad about. Evangelization requires that we recognize the truth of sin and death. We preach “Him crucified” (1 Cor 2:2).
To evangelize the sad, therefore, means to imitate Christ who, as the Immutable Word of God could not suffer, but coming as man, could suffer with. We must have the joy of heaven, but also reach out in compassion — suffering with — those in need of our mercy.
It is not compassionate to tell a grieving man to hide his pain and smile. It is not compassionate to tell him he’s a bad Christian for loving the child he lost so much that he can’t be always happy. It is not compassionate to tell him to move on in a hurry because the gospel.
I have joy in my heart — despite my very real pain, despite my grief, despite my loss, despite my anger, despite my frustration — in hope of eternity. And being real about that? It evangelizes those in pain, grief, loss, anger, and frustration better than a smile.