Monday, June 26, 2017

"Evangelization 101" for Practicing Catholics

"Everyone who acknowledges me before others
I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father."

(Mt 10:32)

If I am part of the 25% of baptized Catholics who worship the Lord weekly, how can I help the Church move from maintenance mode into a "permanent state of mission" (Pope Francis)?

Jesus clearly expects me not only to respond to his universal call to holiness, but also to contribute to the universal call to mission, and here are five ways I can make become part of the solution:
  1. Actively pursue ongoing conversion of heart.  I need to fend off the temptation to tepid minimalism, since Sunday Mass is an absolutely necessary but not sufficient element of missionary discipleship. I need to overcome timidity and sloth through a renewed commitment to daily prayer, reflection on the living Word of God, and devotions like the Rosary and Divine Mercy Chaplet. If I'm not moving forward, then the world and the flesh and the Devil will inevitably drag me backwards. Therefore, I need to commit to a daily examination of God's grace and my response (or lack there of), as well as to Confession--that great Sacrament of Healing.

  2. Give witness to the beauty of the Christian life. Matthew Kelly says there are four signs of a "dynamic Catholic"--prayer, study, generosity, and evangelization.  So before I speak about my faith and my friendship with Jesus Christ, I have to make sure that the witness of my daily life is already demonstrating the deepest commitment of my heart. If I'm not uprooting areas of vice, hounding out hypocrisy, and striving to embrace the gift of new life in Christ, then my evangelizing efforts will never bear fruit. I need to strive constantly to grow so that I'll be more ready when the Lord says it's time to go.

  3. Share the great story of Salvation History and the basic proclamation of the Gospel. Sherry Weddell says that intentional disciples are not afraid to mention the name of Jesus. It is not enough for my life to reflect the fact that God loves me, but I need to be prepared to share the good news of salvation with my words: From God's overflowing love which brought all of creation into existence so that human beings might freely share in the divine life; through the reality of sin which has ruptured this relationship, and God's rescue plan which was rooted in his covenant with the Chosen People; to the sending of God's only begotten Son, who would conquer sin and death by freely laying down his life out of love for the whole human race, and the promise of the Holy Spirit to guide the Church as his evangelizing instrument, until he returns at the end of time.  If I'm not sharing the message in my own words--whenever I have a chance--then woe to me. I need to see this great story as the key to understanding the story of my own life.

  4. Reflect on, name and share the ways that God continues to work in my life.  Ever since my Baptism, I have had countless personal encounters with the Lord Jesus.  It might be through the Sacraments of the Church or a word from Sacred Scripture; it might be through an act of mercy shown by a friend or a chance encounter with a stranger; it might be through an inspired hymn or through the surprising beauty of God's creation.  If I am not willing and able to describe the overflowing gift of God's grace in my life, I won't be able to touch the hearts of family members and friends. Jesus has changed my life--and continues to touch my heart each day--so I need to look for opportunities to share this beautiful truth. 

  5. Rely on the Holy Spirit. There is only one way to guarantee that I'll have the courage, the wisdom and the grace to speak with love of the Love which is at the center of my life. If I am too self-reliant and unwilling to pray, "Come, Holy Spirit," I will certainly fail to respond to my evangelizing mission; but if I trust in the work of the Spirit, miracles will begin to happen. Jesus promises that we are never alone as he sends us out to acknowledge him before others.
May our Mother Mary, Star of the New Evangelization, make us fit instruments in the hand of the Holy Spirit, witnesses of her divine Son, and apostolic souls who will help lead our brothers and sisters back to communion with the Father of Mercy!

Monday, June 19, 2017

Freedom for Mission: 6.21.17 -- 7.4.17

In an effort to focus on our fundamental "freedom for mission", the U.S. Bishops are again challenging Catholics across the country to embrace a fortnight of prayer, fasting and study.

Fourteen days may seem like a long time to address what should be an obvious freedom for Americans, but real threats require real resistance. One problem with current attacks on religious liberty is that they clothe themselves under the mantle of "justice."  Indeed, the prevailing secular orthodoxy often seeks to diminish and restrict this "first freedom" precisely in the name of freedom--shaming and silencing religious believers under the guise of preserving freedom from alleged "hate speech" or "bigotry."

However, followers of Jesus Christ don't discriminate; they just disagree with the myths and truth claims being propagated by opponents of religious liberty.

As we advocate for a renewed freedom for mission, maybe we should start by acknowledging that  "evangelical atheists" are actually promoting a meta-narrative about the human person and about the meaning of life.  This new quasi-religious world view stands in stark contrast with a Christian world view, and the simple act of naming it as such could lead to potentially fruitful conversations about authentic pluralism.  We might even be able to invite people to consider how respectful "coexistence" would differ from coerced compliance.

The identity of the human person and the destiny of the human family is at stake, so let's pray that the Holy Spirit will animate the national convocation on The Joy of the Gospel in America with a renewed missionary mandate.

And let's each make some small effort in the two weeks ahead to help promote authentic human freedom: As the Lord said following the healing of a boy afflicted with a mute and deaf spirit, "This kind can only come out through prayer" (Mk 9:29)!