In the Arizona parish where I serve as deacon, I am on the preaching rotation every Wednesday and Friday for morning Masses. I have been preaching strongly… sometimes even sternly about the necessity for meaningful evangelization from Catholics. It may sound like some sort of a ‘we all ought to do something’ generalized preaching — but I’m looking down into the pews in front of me. There is little doubt that I am exhorting the locals that we need to do better. Many people don’t like to be directly challenged.
We have no trouble getting 75 people to come to our parish hall for Friday evening Lenten soup supper. But we have eighteen who show up for a ‘Call to Holiness’ speaker event night. We may serve 75 people with pancakes when the Knights do a Sunday morning breakfast. We have far less than half that number show up for a pro-life demonstration on our main thoroughfare in town.
Archbishop Charles Chaput last year said these words, “Believers can’t be silent in public life and be faithful to Jesus Christ at the same time. Actively witnessing to our convictions and advancing what we believe about key moral issues in public life is not “coercion.” It’s honesty. It’s an act of truth-telling. It’s vital to the health of every democracy. And again, it’s also a duty–not only of our religious faith, but also of our citizenship.”
The sometimes dismal participation I’ve suggested above isn’t unique to my current parish at all. Relativism, the child-abuse scandal, contraception, divorce and cafeteria choice mentality has brought a lot of ‘ticket punchers’ into the pews of U. S. churches. The Catholic Church has suffered at least two generations of people who have had weak formation, weak preaching, weak participation and let’s all get along niceness — a sort of Mr. Rogers neighborhood form of Catholicism.
The late priest and author Henri J. M. Nouwen says that ‘the Church, as the body of Christ has the larger task than supporting and nurturing its own members.’ And so, it’s nice that we serve each other in a demonstration of Lenten soup community building. But that isn’t evangelization. Feeding only our own members, most of whom are well-enough off to feed themselves isn’t a fitting response to THE GREAT COMMISSION. Jesus prayed for his followers, “As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world” (John 17:18). Part of the essence of being the Church is being a living witness for Christ in the world.
As I said in a recent column on the Catholic Family Podcast home website, this Catholic Faith is only LENT to us — and I propose a ‘come to meeting with your Lenten conscience’ before Easter. Are you practicing faith which is made up of serving only those inside the parish buildings. If so — I pray that you will visit with Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. Ask Jesus to send His Spirit of Wisdom to shape your heart for the Easter and Pentecost Faith that God would have you set out on.
When Pentecost happened to the Apostles, they immediately took the message outside. Out of the Upper Room… to the streets. And 3,000 joined in the first days.
There are more people outside of the Church than ever inside of it. Many haven’t been baptized. Many don’t know that you are on fire for your faith.
Are you on fire? If not — there’s another thing to pray about between now and Pentecost. Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful. Enkindle in them the Fire of Your love. Send forth Your Spirit and we shall renew the face of the earth.”
Copyright 2012 Deacon Tom Fox