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Posts tagged ‘New Evangelization’

Shirking Your Supreme Duty

St. Peter was an apostle to the Jewish people.

St. Paul was an apostle to the Gentiles.

From the beginning, from the first breath of the Holy Spirit upon the Church, the supreme duty has been to share Jesus Christ. To evangelize.

Not to create programs.

Not to practice hospitality in the traditional sense of the word.

Not even to teach, heal, or serve along the lines of generic service.

We were called to go into all nations and baptize. To call to repentance. To guide and lead everyone to the Truth of Jesus Christ.

Too many of us have lost our focus.

It is like we were hired for a job with a “supreme duty,” clearly written in the job description, and we have focused on everything BUT the supreme duty.

We write books and buy books that are only slightly better than self-help drivel. And they sell.

We listen to talks that emphasize any number of things yet omit the one thing that is our supreme duty.

We don’t evangelize.

St. Paul’s number one goal was not to meet up with those who were different and learn about their culture. He didn’t spend his time and fill pages with writings about how to welcome the stranger and celebrate their differences. He didn’t preach about giving money to social programs or even about demonstrating for a cause or becoming an activist for social change.

He talked about something far different. He wrote about something far better. He died for something exceedingly more important.

Encounter Christ Jesus. And be converted.

We are not a closed group. We are not a social experiment. We are not about making the world better now or even about becoming the best version of ourselves. (Even if all those things seem to fit nicely in the Christian ethos.)

It stings. Doesn’t it?

We are made for heaven, and we are called to go into the world and share the good news … for the purpose and ultimate goal of conversion.

Don’t expect to feel comfortable. You might expect to feel distinctly uncomfortable.

You might even think you are putting your life at risk.

Put down your self-help books, even the ones that seem Catholickie (I made that word up).

“No believer in Christ, no institution of the Church can avoid this supreme duty, to proclaim Christ to all peoples.” – Pope St. John Paul II

There is only one group of people who have a unique relationship with God and our evangelization to them will be different, something more like talking to our grandparents and great grandparents. There is only one group of people who pre-date us in the faith and their covenant pre-dates our own. The Jewish people.

But everyone else is rudderless.

Even so, Jesus Christ loves his own and came to them first. He awaits their Great Recognition with joy and anticipation. So share. Even here. But don’t approach your matriarchs and patriarchs in the faith with arrogance. Definitely don’t do that. Begin with your common ground. And there is so much. SO. MUCH.

There is still a gentile world that rejects the Gospel message. There are still many who are comfortable with your social projects… just keep your mouth and message to yourself…just don’t try to tell us about Old or New Testament. Keep your Sacramental life hidden from me.

St. Paul would not be silent. So why are we?

He would not settle for service programs. So why do we?

He would shake things up a lot with his words and with his pen. So why don’t we?

Evangelize.

It is your supreme duty.

 

You Have ONE Job

We tell our daughter this often.

You have one job. It’s college. Give it your best.

In today’s Gospel Reading, we are told as clearly as possible, you have one job. While the Lord delays His return, Engage in trade with these until I return.

We usually hear fishing metaphors from our Lord.

Or agricultural metaphors.

But today, it is a business metaphor.

It is still the same message – for those of us who are a bit dense and need to hear it again and again and in different ways.

Grow my Church.

Convert hearts.

To this we say, we try. We are muddling. We are afraid we might stick our foot in our mouth. Perhaps make things worse. So we bite our tongue sometimes, Lord. Surely, you understand. Being bold in this environment is more hassle than it’s worth.

Magdala, Israel Below the Church The stone floor is the ORIGINAL road in the hometown of Mary Magdalene

Magdala, Israel
Below the Church
The stone floor is the ORIGINAL road in the hometown of Mary Magdalene

Enough! You who are weak and afraid to engage in trade.

Take what I gave him to do, and give it to another.

Imagine that you are the one who didn’t engage in trade. You tap danced around the teachings of the Church. You were afraid to share boldly the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. You kept your joy a secret. Received the Eucharist on Sunday and nothing during your week showed that you have a King.

You buried your gold.

But now, you stand before that King.

With nothing.

 

 

While there is still time, engage in trade.

Where Do You See Yourself In Five Years

Recently, I interviewed for a new position. Most people dread interviews; I love them.

My favorite question is: “Where do you see yourself in five years?”

It is an oldie but a goody. How would you answer that question?

I have never answered it the way I did a few days ago. I paused, just for a second or two, and thought about it. The answer came to me more strongly than if I my mind had practiced the answer over and over. It wasn’t a case of my mind searching for a good sound bite. It wasn’t about where I would be working. It wasn’t about what title I would have. It had nothing to do with where I would be living or what kind of clothes I would be putting on each morning. It had nothing to do with what hairstyle I would have, how much I would weigh then, or if I would be driving to work or putting on my slippers and sitting at my computer most days.

It wouldn’t matter if my commute required a plane, train or automobile.

Only one answer fits, and the older I get, the more that answer rings true. It is unshakable truth. If I deny this reality or deviate from this path, I will not be happy.

I will not be me.

It is who I was created to be.

I know this. There is no way I will not be sharing the good news of Our Lord Jesus Christ. It is what I was born to do. Whether here – I don’t know. On that, I don’t know the mind of Christ. But I will share Christ and His Church.

I haven’t heard back about the interview.

It went well, but I trust in Divine Providence. He really does order all things for the good of those who serve Him. I serve Him, and so does each person who applied and interviewed  for the position. For one of us, sharing Christ matches perfectly with the job description. For the rest of us, only God knows – and I mean that truly. It is no cliche.

So, while I wonder what I will be doing in the years to come, I don’t wonder all that much.

The last time we were in the Liturgical C-cycle of the Missal, we had the same reading on Sunday. The passage from Sacred Scripture is a comfort to me. I have had the verse taped to my bathroom mirror for three years.

The page from the Magnifcat is worn and torn.

My confidence in the verse is stronger than it was three years ago, or eleven years ago when I came into the Church, or 40+ years ago when I asked Jesus Christ to be the Lord of my life.

I know who I am.

I am called.

You have been called, too.

Come, let us share this One with the world, for nothing else matters. It is what we were born to do. Let the truth of it be enough.

Catholics and Movie God’s Not Dead

I went to the movie God’s Not Dead a few days ago. It was moving – something like a contemporary  twist on themes common to old Billy Graham films. Instead of ending at a Billy Graham crusade, it ended at a Christian rock concert. Other than that, it fit the model.

As the credits rolled, I noticed a familiar name. Cary Solomon. Writer. Later that day, I sent Cary a LinkedIn note. It wasn’t presumptuous of me because Cary had sent me the LinkedIn invitation months ago and followed it up with a personal message.

Back then, he wondered if I had any good Catholic material that I wanted to see produced. If I did have something in mind, I don’t have the funds to see it through to the big screen. But I remembered the name.

I wrote Cary the other day. I congratulated him on his latest movie and asked him when he was going to do a Catholic film – a Eucharist-centered film.

He wrote back to say he wants to do a Catholic film, but the funds just don’t support it.

I guess he’s right. Catholics tend to send their money to missions and local parishes and diocesan-wide initiatives. They fund CRS and Catholic Charities and local food pantries. And those things should get top billing. And we do evangelize.

We just don’t do it with modern cinematography featuring Eucharistic themes.

We retell the old, old story. Passion of the Christ.

We support movies about saints. The canonized. Not modern Joes who stumble along and find the Eucharist.

But Cary said he would like to do something thoroughly Catholic. I promised to pray for him and his heart’s desire.

Who knows. With God, anything is possible.

The Boomer Esiason Story

I don’t know very much about Boomer Esiason because I’m not a big football fan. I know, one shouldn’t admit that in the final days before Super Bowl Sunday. But I saw an interview on Real Sports the other day about Boomer Esiason, and I can’t get it out of my head.

Boomer Esiason played for the Cincinnati Bengals, New York Jets, and Arizona Cardinals. Today, he is a NFL commentator and analyst. In the late 1980s, he attended a meeting of the Quarter Back Club of Washington DC to receive an award. The featured speaker that night was Frank Deford, chairman of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. When Deford spoke, Boomer realized that this was not just an awards ceremony. The evening was actually a fundraiser for Cystic Fibrosis (CF).

Boomer listened as Deford recounted the story of his daughter Alex who died at the age of 8. Boomer describes the talk as the most moving talk he has ever heard. Frank Deford described one father-daughter moment that had Alex and her daddy (Deford) laughing, and as Alex walked away, she said wouldn’t this have been great, Daddy.

Frank knew what she meant. She was saying that it would have been so wonderful to have a full life as daddy and daughter – all of it – all the years and laughs and special moments. Soon after, Alex became very ill and passed away.

Boomer listened to Deford that night and was so moved by the speech that Boomer asked Deford, “How can I get involved? How can I help?”

Deford told Boomer that he could help by leveraging his celebrity for CF patients. Boomer began helping with fundraisers and often visited the sick children who were hospitalized with CF.

And then, four years later, in 1991, Boomer and his wife had their first child, a son they named Gunnar. One day, Boomer was called to the phone in the middle of practice. He had to get home. It was an emergency. Boomer was on a respirator in Children’s Hospital.

When Esiason arrived at the hospital and was met by the doctor, a nurse was there. Boomer saw the CF on her name tag. He knew instantly that his little boy had the same illness that had taken Deford’s daughter and was claiming the lives of the children he visited in hospitals.

What was the chance of that?

Devastated, Boomer called his father first. And then he called Deford.

The call set the stage for everything that came next. Boomer was all in. This was about his son. From that moment on, every contract he signed had a clause in it that included a donation to the foundation. He worked all hours, didn’t turn down any invitation, lived on five hours’ sleep every night. This was for his son. And Boomer’s fame, his name, his everything was for this son.

I cannot help but see a spiritual reality in this story.

We have a Lord who understands our weakness, who became like us, experiencing everything we experience. The Lord Jesus Christ is the Son. He bore our infirmities. Like Gunnar.

His Heavenly Father looks at the Son and pours out everything for that Son. He holds back nothing. Like Boomer.

We are the little ones, languishing in hospitals, scooped up by Boomer and Gunnar and benefiting by so great a love – the love between father and son.

There is another lesson here as well.

Like Boomer Esiason, we have been asked to make this personal. Faith is not just knowledge and hours of volunteerism. It must become real, everything, as powerful as love itself. Everyone who encounters us must walk away, having caught a glimpse of the faith we hold dear – just as anyone who meets Boomer Esiason walks away having had an encounter with the mission of CF. We must throw everything we are – our name, our work, our life – behind the Kingdom of God. When people think of us, they must also immediately think of our story. Our story of life in Christ, that is.

We must have the same kind of zeal for the Kingdom that Boomer has for his son. We are both in this for one reason – there are so many waiting to be saved.

We aren’t just dabbling at this work, like it is something we do. It is who we are – because we love the Son that much.

Playing Church

Audrey and I were good friends when we were young. In high school, our paths didn’t cross very often as we simply didn’t have many classes together.

But in middle school, things were different. On one occasion, she came to my house, and we ended up at the church. That wasn’t so odd, because my brother and sister and I were in the church quite often after hours. It was almost a second home (since our dad was pastor there). And it was just a block away.

When you’re twelve or thirteen, you begin to think of church differently. You notice that people don’t worship the same. And you talk about the differences.

It’s not like when you are young – and oblivious.

It’s not like when you are older – and you are sure your way is the right way.

When you are young, you are malleable. You are eager to learn how you are different from your friends – and how you are the same. You have a great desire to open your world up and make new friends. Try new things. Experience new places.

Audrey and I found ourselves in the church sanctuary (a very small country Presbyterian parish). At first, we just played church. But then, we realized that we were drawing on different worship experiences. Soon, we were taking turns, explaining to each other what worship looks like at our church. How we do it. What the preacher does. What the priest does. What the people do.

We didn’t quite grasp the finer points of each other’s faith, but we were having fun. We were talking. We were showing, explaining, experiencing something very important.

Even at that young age, we felt the great desire to participate in ecumenism. To discover what we each believed – and to find common ground.

And like all good ecumenism, it was grounded in friendship and goodwill. There was no desire to win. We simply wanted to share.

I forget these things – now that I’m all grown up. I forget the friendship part and want to go right to the explaining part. I forget the desire to find common ground and find myself wanting, instead, to win.

I can still see Audrey in my mind, standing on the platform where my father stood every Sunday, explaining to me what the priest does in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

And I realize that I would love to go back to that childhood home and visit the parish where many of my friends received the Sacraments. What we were yearning for all those years ago, we’ve actually discovered.

True ecumenism leads to unity.

While we have grown up and gone different ways, in the most important way, we have come together. We are both part of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

“Christ bestowed unity on His Church from the beginning. This unity, we believe, subsists in the Catholic Church as something she can never lose, and we hope that it will continue to increase until the end of time. Christ always gives His Church the gift of unity, but the Church must always pray and work to maintain, reinforce, and perfect the unity that Christ wills for her…. The desire to recover the unity of all Christians is a gift of Christ and a call of the Holy Spirit” (n. 820).

November 2013 Catholic by Grace Column

We are called to witness. Every baptized Catholic must share the Gospel message with others. Yes, even those who are afraid of public speaking are called to bear witness to the joy of living a life for Christ.

Before you dismiss the Great Commission, before you tell yourself that the mandate to give witness to the faith is only for those who like to stand up in public and hold a microphone, you need to know something. Read more