Tuesday, May 8, 2012
Who Did You Evangelize Today?
I’ve been reading a book about a 22-year old woman from Tennessee, who now lives in Uganda with her 14 children (Kisses From Katie). That fact is in itself remarkable, but even more remarkable is her appreciation of the underlying truth of all Jesus’ teaching: they were about her. Not about His miracles, or His resurrection or His Church, all of Jesus’ teachings were about her. She saw everything that Jesus said and did as instructions and examples to her personally on how she should live her life. What wisdom from someone so young!
I knew Katie was a special lady when I first read her words of introduction:
“I never meant to be a mother, not when I was nineteen. I never meant to live in Uganda. Thankfully, God’s plans happen to be much better than my own. … So I quit my life. I quit college; I quit cute designer clothes and my little yellow convertible; I quit my boyfriend. I no longer have all the things the world says are important. I do not have a retirement fund; I do not even have electricity some days. But I have everything I know is important. I cannot fathom being happier.
Sometimes working in a Third World country makes me feel like I am emptying the ocean with an eyedropper. I have learned to be okay with this feeling because I have learned that I will not change the world. Jesus will do that. I can, however, change the world for one person. I can change the world for fourteen little girls and for four hundred schoolchildren and for a sick and dying grandmother and for a malnourished, neglected, abused five-year old. And if one person sees the love of Christ in me, it is worth every minute. In fact, it is worth spending my life for. … So I keep stopping and loving one person at a time. Because this is my call as a Christian. I can do only what one woman can do, but I will do what I can.”
Katie knows the importance, the sacred and holy importance, of living her individual life focused on benefitting other individual lives. Her one being impacting --- evangelizing, if you will --- one other being, one at a time, just as Jesus did.
I heard the prayer petitions at mass today, but for the first time I understood them in a different light: “Let us pray for our Church leaders, we pray to the Lord. … Let us pray for our governmental leaders, we pray to the Lord … Let us pray for the poor, we pray to the Lord” … and “Let us pray for the sick, we pray to the Lord.” Do you see how weak those prayers are if we just recite them? Oh, I am not saying that God, the one we are speaking to is weak, He can do any of those things we talk to Him about, but that is not how He, as demonstrated by Jesus (and appreciated by Katie), typically works.
Jesus did things alone, but that was not to demonstrate what God can do --- the Jews knew who the true God was and His powers. Jesus did things, as a man, to show what we can and MUST do to gain eternal life: we must love one another, even as the Father loves Him and He, by His words and actions, loves the Father. And His actions showed us that our love cannot be just words, or encouragements for others to act. We must act.
We recently changed the creed back to its original form: I believe, to emphasize the personal-ness of belief. We cannot just generally believe as some type of group action; we must personally believe. And we must personally act, also. Better our prayer petitions at mass be worded thusly: “We pray for our Church leaders and especially for any I might see or encourage today.” “We pray for governmental leaders, and that I might elect and help good ones today.” “We pray for the poor, and that I might see any I pass today and stop and help them.” “We pray for the sick, and that I might take time to be present with ones I know today, to bring them Your love.” This is how the Church really understands those prayers; they are not just calls for God to act, but for us, individually, to act with Him.
I recently read an article on the difference between a liberal and conservative mindset in our culture today. I think I can summarize it down to one word: “Our.” We pray: “Our Father,” but liberal and conservative mindsets interpret that word differently. A liberal mindset thinks in terms of our Church, our government, our poor and our sick, and what we must do for them as Christians --- we in our Churches or our government, we must act. And I can give myself a pass, as those organizations act in my behalf. A conservative mindset thinks of “our” in terms of each of our individual requirements, of my Church and my government, and my poor or sick neighbor. A conservative mindset thinks in terms of the Church’s teaching on subsidiarity: all responsibilities lie at the lowest level, starting with me. A liberal mindset says: “What’s subsidiarity?” Surveys show that most self-identified liberals only superficially understand Church teachings.
The Wall Street Journal today, Tuesday May 8, 2012, has an article on a couple of Catholic parishes in Wisconsin. There, the members petitioned the bishop to remove priests assigned to their parishes, because the priests were not teaching and preaching “according to the precepts of the church, … lacking discussion of charity and embracing others.” Instead they were emphasizing “doctrinal orthodoxy … and confession and sin.” The people thought they knew the teachings of the Church, and wanted to hear their thoughts reinforced --- “you are all such good people.” Instead the bishop responded to their petitions: “that the faith is being properly taught, but what remains are personal likes and dislikes, along with inflated rumors and gossip, some which may even rise to the level of calumnious inciting of hatred of your priests, the faith and myself.” In his letter, the bishop asked parishioners to “reflect prayerfully” on texts he attached, including the Code of Canon Law which empowers him to censure parishioners and effectively ban them from receiving sacraments.
I think the problem in Wisconsin, and in other parishes, and not only with some parishioners but even with some priests, is that they are looking at the Catholic Church and its teachings, perhaps seeing the same words, but definitely reading them in their hearts differently. Discussions will be difficult, until they get on the same page, agreeing on the facts --- just what ARE the teachings of the Catholic Church, and what do they mean? In short, they need to be evangelized. They have read words, and they think they know what they mean: How could you confuse the meaning of the words “Our Father?”
Our petitions at mass, especially in this Year of Evangelization would be better said if we prayed not that “someone” love those in need, but rather that I, and You Lord with me, love those in need. That is the “We” for which we should be speaking to and petitioning our God.
A 19-year old, now 22, got it. How old are you? How long will it take for you to get it? Can you at least pray that God help you to understand and evangelize as He demonstrated--- or she now does? Each night, before you go to sleep, you should ask yourself: “Who by my words or by my actions did I evangelize today?” You come into contact with so many people each day, isn’t there at least one who may have seen something you did or heard something you said, and then thought: “Is that God showing me through this person how to act or speak?” That is evangelization, evangelization that you must do --- and I must do. And if we don’t feel we are doing this because we are not qualified (or it’s not our job), then we should get qualified. (And if you are telling priests, bishops, and the Church what to do, I submit that you are NOT qualified.) A 53-year old lifelong atheist understood the truth of the Catholic faith just by reading the catechism, so much so that he entered the RCIA program. Don’t you think you can learn anything? Don’t you think you can be inspired? Don’t you think you can inspire others? Don’t you think you can love them, as Jesus did, as a young woman in Uganda now does, one at a time?
Who did you evangelize today?