... to become a better Catholic. Yup, that's right. This is a really great story and led to some fascinating realizations in prayer for me.
So one day last week, I'm getting the mail on my way home (Jim always forgets to do so, but we still like him:) and I pull out this little mailed flyer from a local mega church nearby. It contained a friendly note from their senior pastor, info about their Christmas services, and dates/times for a Christmas production (we are talking Broadway production here folks!) they host every year to reach people and draw them into their community. It was very well done, and definitely an awesome idea to evangelize to the wider community.
And it struck me. We Catholics could take a lesson here from our Protestant brothers and sisters in terms of evangelization.
Let's face it our modern world is in a crisis; a crisis of identity, morals, and faith. Speaking from a Catholic tradition, it seems that many Catholics are "sacramentalized" but not "evangelized." Sure we can rattle off prayers from memory like the Nicene Creed or the Glory Be. Yes many of us have received our first holy communion and Confirmation, but we are not effectively evangelized many times. We know the head knowledge of our faith, but not the person whom our 2,000 year plus Church is founded upon. We need to bring people to JESUS! To help folks have a personal relationship with Him, to fall in love with Him, to give their whole lives away to Him by choosing to proclaim the Gospel with reckless abandon. When people personally know who Jesus is, then we teach and help others appreciate all the rich treasures that exist in the Catholic Church (and there's a TON, fyi).
If you are Catholic, listen up. The time is NOW. Proclaim a person to people...Jesus! Don't preach the Church, preach about a person (through your love, compassion, forgiveness, life witness, and everyday actions) who will drastically change your life. Statically, majority of Catholics are no different than the rest of the world; a majority are living a "practical atheism." Many are not living lives of intentional discipleship. All of us need to do our part. If you have been baptized, then you are a missionary; have been given a mission. The mission field is our work places, our homes, families, friends, and even strangers. Our mission is to bring Jesus into the world/our culture through our own unique vocation, gifts, and talents. Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen once commented, "The first word of Jesus in the Gospel was 'come'; the last word of Jesus was 'go'." We have to GO out into the world we live in!
In the last month, there was a huge gathering of Catholic bishops and cardinals from all over the world at the Vatican. The meeting was based on the how the Church can and needs to effectively address the modern world through "the new evangelization. Now when many of us hear the word "evangelization" we primarily think of people who have never heard the Gospel message before. But the Church has been using the term "new evangelization" for quite some time now. No this is not a "new" type of evangelization, but more of a "re-newed" effort of the Church to RE-evangelize peoples/nations/the world who have had a Christian background, but are not living as active, committed disciples...because they need to experience a DYNAMIC relationship with the living Jesus.
Okay, so anyway...back to the invite from this mega church. I was thankful for this invite in the mail; it was a little spiritual kick in the butt to remind me of the great importance for me to do my part to help evangelize the world. By virtue of baptism, we are all on a mission (insert here mission impossible theme song :) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JtyByefOvgQ ). My mission
is to know Jesus and help make Him known and more loved in this world.
So those realizations I mentioned in the beginning???
1. I have to know my Catholic faith; to study it and be able to articulate well in a culture that is growing more hostile to Christianity. To be able to speak the truth in love, and ONLY in love. St. Peter sums it up so perfectly in his letter, "Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who defame your good conduct in Christ may themselves be put to shame." (1 Peter 3:15-16) I must always be ready to defend and explain the faith, but in love, gentleness, and reverence...
2. I need to be creative with bringing the Gospel into the world; to take advantage of many wonderful tools in technology and the media to help make the message more relevant and meaningful to people I meet, work with, and minister to.
3. When people see me or interact with me in life, they need to (hopefully!) have an experience of Jesus. The word Christian literally translates to "little christ." We are called to be those "little christ's" to the world. Every minute of every day of our lives (there's no day off in the life of a disciple). I may be the only Bible people ever read in their lives, and I want to be a good, vibrant witness of Christ to all I meet.
So the next time you receive one of those church mailer invites, don't toss it out right away...use it as a reminder to strengthen your own calling to be a radical and intentional follower of Jesus.
I know that's what it did for me... :)