The Answer to Life, the Unviserse and….Evangelization?

I recently attended a Mass where the Priest talked about the importance of being attentive to the liturgy. The homily had some fantastic elements. He used humor, allusions to our daily lives (granted, they were sports metaphors, why do people always make sports metaphors?) and he was engaging. But! He missed one really big point–he didn’t tell us WHY we should go to Mass.

The Mass is where we have our greatest opportunity, as a community of brothers and sister in the Body of Christ, to come into communion with God, who created us to be in a relationship of love with Him, right? Sure I know that, but the average guy in the pew, praying he can beat the rush out of the parking lot, probably doesn’t.

Another issues is that we as evangelists and catechists sometimes spend too much time appealing to rational argument and Apologetics, instead of appealing to mankind’s longings. We empathize Church doctrine over relationship with God.

Don’t get me wrong, I love scholastic reasoning and there’s a place for it, but it doesn’t have the same power it used to. Sometimes, we spend too much time trying to convince people that the Church is right, and not enough time introducing people to the person of Jesus Christ.

Unfortunately, the culture we live in today is a culture that is far more likely to make choices based on feeling rather than rational argument. The horror film and romantic novel industry thrive on the fact that we love to have our emotions engaged. Our concept of love has been reduced to a feeling , and we live in a culture that tells us to “do what makes you feel good”.

Fortunately, faith is not just an assent of the mind, but an assent of the heart. God does not just speak to our heads, but to the longing of our hearts as well.

So, how exactly do we evangelize and catechize those around us?

Its actually a much easier question than you think and you don’t have to be Scott Hahn to do it! If you know and love Jesus, you can evangelize! Here’s some tips,

1. Its all about Jesus—We should never evangelize or catechize without bringing the teaching back to Jesus. Anyone you talk to should leave knowing what your topic has to do with Jesus.
2. Get used to talking about Jesus to your Christian friends: I used to think it was a bit weird when some Christian friends would randomly break out into prayer. But the more we talk about Jesus in our daily conversations with other Christians, the more natural it will be to talk about God to other friends and co-workers.
3. Listen and ask questions: People really will listen to you if you listen to them. Jesus asked more questions than he gave answers. Listening fosters relationships, builds trust, and gives insight to who your talking to. It also provokes curiosity: Asking someone who they think God is makes them ask themselves that question.
4. Make it applicable—If you followed step 2 you’ll know the interests and problems of your audience. Jesus told stories about farming to farmers and I think he’s a pretty good modal l to follow 🙂 (FYI, if your going to start giving me a sports metaphor, I might zone out out, immediately. Sorry :))
5. Make it dismissible: The Gospel is Good News. Make it Good News.
6. Have a relationship with Jesus, yourself: You might forget what a teacher or friend said, but you don’t forget how they act. Actions leave impressions, and as John 13:35 says, “”By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” Witnesses provoke Sp curiosity, openness, and dialog.
7. Know and share your story: Make Jesus alive and present today by sharing what He has done in your life. Be able to identify that “mountaintop” moment or time period where you experienced God in your life and something changed: Be able to answer “what were you like before this time/event?” “what was this time/event?” and “what were you like after this time/event?”
8. Read Forming Intentional Disciples. READ IT! And then make every Catholic you know read it! Seriously. Why aren’t you reading it, right now? Go!

The Trinity, The Family, and the Parish Community

God blessed me with a lot last weekend. I had the opportunity to go to a day conference for families called Ignite, put on by Image Trinity Ministries.

It was a powerful experience to witness dozens of families to come together for this event, and especially encouraging to see families praying together, prostrate, in front of the Eucharist.

A family that prays like this together is a strong community of Christian believers. Now, bring many family communities together, and you are more likely to have strong parish communities, as well.

I’ve noticed an interesting trend in the various parishes. It seems to me like the parishes that are thriving have come to understand the irreplaceable place of the local parish community. Thriving Churches thrive because they have thriving communities. You walk in to one of these parishes you and feel welcome. You enter these parishes and you feel like a member of the Body of Christ.

Real Christian community is the solution to loneliness. Loneliness, or fear of loneliness, is possibility the worst emotion anyone can feel. It brings on depression, despair, and a feeling of emptiness.

The feeling that we are all alone is the greatest trick I think the Enemy plays on us. It’s like that scene in Harry Potter, when Luna tells Harry that Voldemort wants him to think he’s alone, because that makes him feel weak. When we are with others in a community, we know we are not alone, and we are strong.

We weren’t made to feel lonely. In fact, we were made to be in community, because we were made in the image and likeness of God.

God is a community of love—three persons in one God. God is a community of three persons who seek the good of other, who live in mutual self-donation.

Like the Trinity, we were created to be in a community of love. To love and to be loved. We find ourselves in giving ourselves in self denotative love.

Imagine you were given a sheet of piano music. When you play it well, it sounds beautiful, because you are playing the song the way it was made to sound. But when you play the wrong notes, the song sounds terrible. Likewise, when we love others, like when we play the right music on the piano, we live beautiful and joy-filled lives because we are living for what we were created for. But, when we fail to love, its like we are playing the wrong music, and it makes us wish we had ear plugs 🙂

What community shows us the Trinity most clearly? I’ll give you a hint. You were born into it. You’re family.

As the Trinity is a community of love, so the family is called to be a community of love. It is the place where husband, wife, and children learn what it means to be loved, and love others.

John Paul II calls the family the domestic church, because it is the place where we learn how to pray, to see God in our brothers, and to radiate the love of God to our sisters.

Domestic church? What what about our local parish?! How do we get people back to our parishes? There’s no checklist and it will depend on the needs and interests of the people around you. But reigniting a local parish start with reigniting the domestic church of the family.

If the family is community of love—where we learn to love and pray for each other—creating local parish community will flow more naturally from what has already started at home.

Let’s pray for our families, and if we can, lets pray with our families. Start small by praying a decade of the Rosary, a morning offering, or offering up prayer for each other. Let’s intentionally make little acts of self sacrifice for someone in our family. Even if its just doing the dishes for someone who hates the dishes or letting someone pick what’s for dinner.

Maybe our family isn’t really open to being the domestic church. Sometimes, the best we really can do is invite and engage. Lets get comfortable with saying the name of Jesus in normal conversation in our homes. You don’t have to force it. But, if you talk about your life with your family, and God is apart of your life, it should flow naturally.

We can also pray with and share our life of faith with our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Maybe you’ve never had this experience, but there’s this emptiness inside of me that sometimes springs up–loneliness. It is a hunger for God. It is a hunger for the eternal.

I have tried to fill up this God sized hole with things that don’t satisfy. Likewise, we are surrounded with people who are longing for something more. They are starving for God. They are starving for Christian community.

The local church community has a fantastic opportunity to reach out and help bring the love of God to the lost and lonely. By forming a vibrate community, the local parish can go out and bring the love of Christ to fill the emptiness in people’s hearts.

But the local parish community does not spring up from nowhere. It start with the domestic church—the school that teaches you how to pray, how to be in community, how be a neutral self-gift—it starts in the the community of the family.

One of the first things I took away from last Saturday was seeing the power of the family in action. Community can start with the family, flow to the local parish, and then into the world, so that we can enjoy the beauty of the community with the Trinity in Heaven.