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Every Day Catholic - October 2011

Every Day Catholic uses an engaging and practical approach to help readers confidently apply Christian values to their everyday decisions. Great for group or individual study, and FREE online discussion guides are available for each issue. Get more information and order here.

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Who, Me? Evangelize?
By: Kathy Coffey

My friend Nick is paralyzed, and I desperately want to help him get better. But how? I don’t have the answers.

Then I hear rumors of a healer. The man who cures is powerful, popular, surrounded by crowds. I talk with three other friends. How can we even get close?

I start to see that what Nick needs isn’t the strongest stretcher-bearer, but one who understands the sickness. We check the house where the healer is staying. I notice a blue slash of sky through the roof. What if…?

Readers of Mark 2:1-12 or Luke 5:18-26 know how the story ends. The four friends who lower the paralytic through the roof into the astonished face of Jesus may have chosen an unconventional route, but they bring their friend to Jesus. He responds generously: “When Jesus saw their faith,” he cured their friend and forgave his sins (Mark 2:5, emphasis added).

We’re like Nick’s friend because we also ask: Who, me? We can also come to the insight he reached: I don’t need all the answers. I simply need to share the struggle.The most ordinary, maybe even unconscious, act of kindness might bring someone to Jesus. And that’s my goal.

Notice, too, how Jesus evangelized Thomas. He could have healed his own wounds. Instead, he tells Thomas: “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side” (John 20:27).

The mission
In On Evangelization in the Modern World, Pope Paul VI declared: “We wish to confirm once more that the task of evangelizing all people constitutes the essential mission of the Church….Evangelizing is in fact the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity. She exists in order to evangelize” (14).

There’s no doubt about the centrality of the mission. “[T]he presentation of the Gospel message is not an optional contribution for the Church” (5). The Church doesn’t exist for the sake of pastoral councils, schools, choirs, publications, hospitals or religious orders—wonderful as those may be. We exist to bring the Good News to those who hunger for a positive message with eternal consequences.

The model
How does that affect us personally? Most of us are not going to ring doorbells, trying to persuade unwilling listeners that we have a corner on the truth. Instead, we follow the model of Jesus, who amazed his listeners by “the gracious words that came from his mouth” (Luke 4:22). Clearly, he wasn’t imposing, judging or hammering away at a point. The “job description” of Christians isn’t to be dour, cantankerous or punitive, but to be a people who “proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).

We do that primarily by the way we live: with confidence, reverence and compassion. Are we convinced that we have good news to share? Or are we focused on our troubles, fears and negativity? For the “ordinary” person, what form might evangelization take?

A personal niche
Some are called to foreign missions, but far more respond to the call at home. Dire conditions in Africa can seem more appealing at times than dealing with a stubborn toddler, finding patience for a needy friend or caring for an elderly parent. But Vatican II called laypeople to do their work well in the world—whether as parents, plumbers, attorneys or farmers.

Less important than our particular occupation is the lens through which we see life. C.S. Lewis wrote: “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen—not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”

This quiet witness may touch others more than words, showing our conviction that God reveals God’s self through small details as well as larger directions.

Opportunities arise naturally; we don't need to look far for them. It may mean sending a birthday card, eating a meal with a lonely friend, driving the children’s carpool yet again, remembering and celebrating others’ milestones, attending a funeral, visiting a hospital or retirement center, or volunteering through the parish or another organization.

To be effective, we must match our talents to others’ needs. The days are past when people did work they weren’t suited for or a ministry they loathed “for the glory of God.” It is far better to honor and use the gifts God gave us!

The caution
Before we dash off blithely, eager but unequipped, heed the words of On Evangelization in the Modern World: “The Church is an evangelizer, but she begins by being evangelized herself….In brief, this means that she has a constant need of being evangelized, if she wishes to retain freshness, vigor and strength in order to proclaim the Gospel” (15).

On the road to Emmaus, the disciples were so busy trying to evangelize Jesus that they missed his identity (see Luke 24:13-35). In their defense, they were grieving, in shock and probably sleep-deprived. But their failure to recognize him alerts us to our own cluelessness. If we’re too tired or burnt out to be alert to Christ’s presence everywhere, we need to first evangelize ourselves.

So take stock: What evangelizes you? The beauty of Word or creation? The community of believers? Works for peace and justice? The poor? Eucharist? Centering prayer? Spiritual reading? Journaling?

Each person’s answer will differ or combine several factors. But the initial step of evangelizing should be nurturing the truest self. Then we’re better equipped and clearer about what we’re called to do.

For centuries, the Church at its best has stood for joy—against brutality, oppression of the vulnerable, war-mongering and the erosion of human dignity. It’s a privilege to take our places in that fine tradition.

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Imprimatur was granted for this article, “Who, Me? Evangelize?” by Kathy Coffey, from the Most Reverend Joseph R. Binzer, Bishop-Elect and Vicar General, Archdiocese of Cincinnati, 5-27-2011.

Kathy Coffey, the author of Hidden Women of the Gospels and Women of Mercy (Orbis Books), gives retreats and workshops nationally and internationally. She lives in Denver, Colorado, and may be contacted at kathy.coffey2@gmail.com.

Making Connections

■ What evangelizes you? What helps you to be alert to Christ’s presence everywhere?

■ How well have you followed the model of Jesus and brought your friends to him?

■ What talents do you have that can be used to meet others’ needs? How will you share them this month?



Movie Moments

Invictus
By: Frank Frost

One way of evangelizing is leadership by example. A powerful story of this in recent history is Clint Eastwood’s film biography of Nelson Mandela, Invictus. Mandela’s election as president of South Africa after 27 years in prison is just the beginning of the story.

In the wake of apartheid, an economic and cultural divide persists in South Africa. But Mandela (Morgan Freeman) is determined to establish reconciliation and trust among his people. He uses the symbolic and “sacramental” role of sports to unify the country.

South Africa’s national rugby team, Springboks, is a source of intense white pride, but is hated by blacks. The team is on the verge of dissolution by a new black sports commission.

Mandela rescues the team and invites its captain, François Pienaar (Matt Damon), to lead his teammates in playing their best (and winning the World Cup) for the glory of all South Africans. Mandela shares a poem with Pienaar. Invictus, by English poet William Ernest Henley, had helped Mandela through rough times during his long imprisonment. The poem’s title means “unconquerable.” Its ending lines: “I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.”

Mandela publicly and repeatedly demonstrates his support for the team. Both men defy the expectations of their followers as they work to put history behind them and aspire to greatness, when, as Mandela says, “nothing less will do.”

The outcome is never in doubt—it is history, after all—but the lesson is inspiring. Both Mandela and Pienaar lead by example to persuade individuals and a nation to achieve a good greater than themselves.


Next time you watch Invictus, ASK YOURSELF:

■ Leadership by example sometimes means going against the expectations of others to do the right thing. Identify one or more examples of Mandela and Pienaar each showing such leadership.

■ When have I been willing to choose what is right rather than go with the crowd?



Putting Shoes on the Gospel

Matthew Kelly
By: Joan McKamey

The fear of public speaking ranks higher than the fear of death for many people, yet Matthew Kelly not only has built his ministry on speaking to live audiences, but also speaks about his Catholic faith, a topic many of us avoid broaching even with our intimates. In the past two decades, Matthew has presented his evangelizing message to millions in over 50 countries.

And his audiences aren’t filling churches just to hear his Australian accent. His message isn’t heady theology or new revelation. It’s down-to-earth, heartfelt and timeworn, yet ever-new. It’s the Good News of God’s great love for us and what Matthew calls “God’s dream for each of us to become the best version of ourselves.

“I didn’t wake up one day and think to myself: God is calling me to be a speaker and a writer. All of that was secondary. The real and persistent call to put my faith into action was a call to live differently than the culture was encouraging me to—to love deeper, to have more concern and compassion for the needy and marginalized.

“We all come to a point when we either decide to make the faith of our childhood our own or reject it. Disengagement is a huge problem in the Church across all age groups. When 70 percent of Catholics don’t go to Church on Sunday, isn’t it time we did something? I think it is,” says Matthew. And he isn’t one to sit around and wait for others to lead the way. He shares the message of “the genius of Catholicism” through public appearances, retreats, pilgrimages, books and DynamicCatholic.com.

Matthew’s speaking and writing have a very broad audience. He says, “I’m amazed at what children say to me after I speak, what they took away. At the same time, I’ve seen the message change people’s lives in retirement. I hope that people will be inspired to give Catholicism a second chance, discover the genius of Catholicism, and live the faith with passion and purpose.”

Now a husband and father of two young children, 38-year-old Matthew says, “My travel schedule is much lighter than it’s been in two decades so that I can focus on the ambitions of DynamicCatholic.com and spend time with my growing family.”

Matthew continues to deepen his understanding of God’s love, particularly now as a father. He says, “God loves us. We hear this all the time in Christian circles, and I’ve always believed it. But now I feel it. It’s become real to me. I love my children more than I ever thought I was capable of loving. And if I can love them this much—with my weaknesses, brokenness and limitations—how much must God love his children!

“For me, Christianity, at its core, is generous; and when we’re generous to those around us—with time, money, energy, material possessions, praise, advice, gratitude and talents—people glimpse God’s love.” And Matthew would agree: You don’t have to be a public speaker to do that.


Passing On the Faith

Whose Job Is It?
By: Jeanne Hunt

Scenario
Carmen is a faithful Catholic, but her brother Franco is not. His two young children haven’t even been baptized.

Passing their home on her way to Mass, Carmen wonders: What’s stopping me from evangelizing my own family?

A response
Each year, thousands of babies are baptized in American parishes, yet only 17 percent show up six years later for parish religion classes. Many young families are drifting away from their faith due to the fast pace and demands of daily life.

It often isn’t an overt rejection of their faith. Many parents will say that they meant to get in gear with Sunday Mass and religious education classes, but they never got around to it.

Active Catholics need to reach out to them. What if we each helped one family return to active Catholic life? That one family could be your very own. Most of us won’t be called to be missionaries in Central America, but we can be missionaries to our family and friends.

The hard part is that we’re often afraid to interfere. The internal conversation goes like this: It’s not my business whether people go to church or how they raise their kids. After all, the parents are adults. Let them step up and raise their kids Catholic themselves.

It’s easy to convince ourselves that it’s not our place to speak up. We hesitate to talk about faith with our family and friends because we’re embarrassed and don’t want to be labeled as religious fanatics. Yet God wants us to invite others to know him. It’s called evangelization, and it starts in our own families. God calls us to be his voice of love.

Carmen decided to stop making excuses. She mustered up her nerve and sent an e-mail to Franco and his family. She invited them to Sunday Mass and brunch afterward. The e-mail gave him time to think about his answer without pressure. What a surprise to Carmen when he agreed to go!

Months later, big sister and little brother have a standing date: First Sunday of the month is Mass and brunch. Franco and his family are even showing up at Mass on their own every once in a while. Evangelization is not about ringing strangers’ doorbells. It’s about inviting those you love to come home again.


Prayer

Gone Fishing
By: Jeanne Hunt

(for praying alone or with others)

Preparation: Place a bowl of fish-shaped crackers, small plastic bags, a cross, an open Bible and a lit candle on a prayer table.

OPENING SONG
“Here I Am, Lord” (or similar hymn)

OPENING PRAYER
Lord, we want to be fishers of men and women. Give us the insight, courage and desire to evangelize. Help us to see our lives and circumstances as places where your invitation can be made. Amen.

SCRIPTURE
Matthew 4:18-20
“As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, [Jesus] saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea—for they were fishermen. And he said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.’ Immediately they left their nets and followed him.”

RITUAL
God invites us to go fishing with him. God is waiting on the shore with a simple and playful challenge: You are invited to come forward and take a handful of fish crackers. Put them in one of the plastic bags. As you do this, ask God to give you opportunities this week to speak to others about your faith, to invite someone back to Church, to pray with someone...or whatever God has in mind. Each time you evangelize in any way, eat one of the fish crackers. Continue until the bag is empty. (When everyone has returned to his or her seat, sing “Here I Am, Lord” again.)

CLOSING PRAYER
We make this prayer in the name of Jesus, our Lord. Amen.




Martha: Martha, Mary and their brother Lazarus were evidently close friends of Jesus. He came to their home simply as a welcomed guest, rather than as one celebrating the conversion of a sinner like Zacchaeus or one unceremoniously received by a suspicious Pharisee. The sisters feel free to call on Jesus at their brother’s death, even though a return to Judea at that time seems almost certain death. 
<p>No doubt Martha was an active sort of person. On one occasion (see Luke 10:38-42) she prepares the meal for Jesus and possibly his fellow guests and forthrightly states the obvious: All hands should pitch in to help with the dinner. </p><p>Yet, as biblical scholar Father John McKenzie points out, she need not be rated as an “unrecollected activist.” The evangelist is emphasizing what our Lord said on several occasions about the primacy of the spiritual: “...[D]o not worry about your life, what you will eat [or drink], or about your body, what you will wear…. But seek first the kingdom [of God] and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:25b, 33a); “One does not live by bread alone” (Luke 4:4b); “Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness…” (Matthew 5:6a). </p><p>Martha’s great glory is her simple and strong statement of faith in Jesus after her brother’s death. “Jesus told her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?’ She said to him, ‘Yes, Lord. I have come to believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who is coming into the world’” (John 11:25-27).</p> American Catholic Blog The commandments are a gift, not a curse. Sin is less about breaking the rules and more about breaking the Father’s heart.

 
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