In Evangelization, It’s God Who First Reaches Out

Olivia Hussey as Mary in "Jesus of Nazareth"

It’s hard to reach people outside the Church with the message of Christ.

But that’s the people you’re supposed to reach with evangelization!

Most people that start in the RCIA (the process for joining the Church) already know something about Catholicism.

But, they’re the brave ones–the 20% with enough gumption to walk through the doors.

There’s probably another 80% that have questions but aren’t ready to take that step.

However, like God, we have to find ways to reach out to people that need a nudge in the right direction. And, I was convicted of this recently by watching the old movie Jesus of Nazareth.

Olivia Hussey and the Magnificat Scene

I just got Jesus of Nazareth as a gift last week from an RCIA candidate. So I started watching it with my kids. I forgot how powerful it was. The cinematography is incredible.

First of all, Olivia Hussey has to be the greatest Mary ever. She’s so stunningly beautiful and pure looking. She just looks the part! I like to think that Mary really did look exactly like Olivia Hussey. But even better!

My absolute favorite scene is when Mary visits Elizabeth–the Magnificat scene. It is so powerful.

Click here to watch the scene

Notice how, around the middle of the scene, the camera shifts from front-on head shots of Mary and Elizabeth to a wide shot. You see them both from farther away and they are framed by the two arches in the background.

Mary visits Elizabeth in Jesus of Nazareth

It reminds me of Fra Angelico’s painting of the Annunciation. The Angel Gabriel (on the left) and Mary (on the right) are similarly framed by two arches.

Fra Angelico's Annunciation

It’s like the arches separate the divine from the human. Each has a separate space and they don’t connect. They’re quarantined off from each other.

But see how the angel leans in toward Mary? He takes the initiative to close the distance.

The angel is lower than Mary as well and she holds her stomach. The Incarnation must have just happened and Gabriel bows in reverence to the presence of God in Mary’s womb.

Mary reaches out first

In the Jesus of Nazareth scene, it’s now Mary on the left and Elizabeth on the right. They’re also separated by the arches.

However, Mary is the representative of the divine now. Like the angel before, she’s bringing God’s presence into this home, this world.

And Elizabeth kneels, making herself lower than Mary to acknowledge the divine inside her.

Then, at the end of the scene, Mary takes the initiative. She bridges the gap. She moves from the separation of her arch and reaches out to Elizabeth.

God reaches out first

In watching this scene, it struck me that it’s God who first takes the initiative. It’s God who first reaches out to us.

We were quarantined off from God by sin. The divine and the human each had their separate places, so to speak, and the two were not connected.

To save this sin-ravaged creation, God bridged the gap by becoming one of us. He moved into our separation to free us from it and connect us to himself.

God first became Incarnate in Mary and she brought him to Elizabeth…and then to the world.

Take the initiative and reach out first

We in turn hold the presence of Christ in our souls through Baptism and the Eucharist. Christ indwells us and as baptized Christians, we’re called to bring him out into the world.

Taking the initiative, like God and Mary, it’s our job to bridge the gap, to close the distance with those who haven’t yet encountered his presence.




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  1. I think you’re right about Olivia Hussey in Jesus of Nazareth. I had ordered the boxed set just before Easter to watch as a family, it arrived yesterday and I am looking forward to watching it again after all these years. Mary did reach out first, it’s so east and tempting to keep our evangelisation to within our own home, thanks for this reminder to make that extra effort to GET OUT THERE !

    • Marc Cardaronella says:

      That’s so funny that you got Jesus of Nazareth for Easter too. Yeah, I think you’ll like it.

      That’s the thing, it’s so easy to just stay in your own place with your own people and keep it at home…or in the parish. It’s uncomfortable to take the initiative, but it’s on us if we want to spread the message. We can’t expect everyone to come right to our doors. Although, I’m a huge fan of figuring out ways to do that as well by using the media. Promotion and publicity is a way of reaching out too. That’s why I’m so excited about the internet. It really gives those options of reaching out to places you normally can’t get to.

      Thanks for commenting.

  2. Great post, Marc – so often we think evangelization is all up to us, when actually God is inviting the person to the openness needed to hear our message. We can’t measure our success simply by the results of our own efforts. A healthy thing to remember.

    • Marc Cardaronella says:

      That’s an aspect of this I hadn’t really considered. God is continually taking the initiative with us. He’s continually reaching out to us and trying to bridge that gap. And, he can help people be open to his message as well. Good points.

  3. Great post. Thanks. I’m going to use the wing clip in class this week.

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