You probably do what I do on a regular basis. I make the sign of the Cross several times a day. I sign myself with the cross not only before meals but also when I get into the car or get out of bed. Just this morning I was thinking to myself: “So often I make the sign of the Cross without even thinking about what I am doing. Do I realize that I am celebrating two of the greatest mysteries of our faith when I sign myself?” We remember with gratitude the mystery of the incarnation and the mystery of the Triune God. Every time we sign ourselves we are reminded of the tremendous love of this God Who sent the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity to open the gates of heaven for us.
A couple of Sundays ago we celebrated the Solemnity of the Holy Trinity. We will never know – much less understand even a tiny bit of – this great mystery of faith unless God had deigned in His infinite love to reveal it to us. We have been given a glimpse into the very nature of God. What a privilege! The question is whether we really appreciate it. If we do, why don’t we proclaim it to the whole world? The early Christians went out into the streets to share the Good News of Jesus. Filled with the Holy Spirit they became evangelizers – harbingers of the Good News – to accomplish what the Master had asked them to do: to preach His Word and baptize the nations in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. The apostles traveled to the four corners of the globe when travel was difficult, sometimes even impossible.
During the Easter season we heard many of the wonderful Easter stories that formed the Early Church and transformed the early Christians. One of my favorite Easter stories is from Luke 24:13-35. It speaks of two disciples who left the community in Jerusalem because they were disappointed and disillusioned. They returned to their former life in the little village of Emmaus. Interestingly so many of the Easter stories recount that the disciples who had not yet been transformed by the resurrection returned to their former lives. Peter, for instance, went back to fishing (John 21:3). In essence they abandoned the community that Jesus had formed with them. However, once they recognized the Risen Lord in the breaking of the bread, the two disciples returned to the community in Jerusalem even though it was very late.
Some years ago the Pew Research Center published a study on religion in America. It released the disturbing statistic that ten per cent of baptized Catholics abandon their faith. Probably there are some in our neighborhoods that no longer attend Church for whatever reason. Just like the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, they are disillusioned or disappointed. As a result, they leave the community. Recently we have also heard that a significant number of Millennials are rejecting organized religion.
Many years ago I wrote a paper for a course in the Sociology of Religion and it investigated the reasons why people leave the Church and the reasons why they return to the Church. In a sense, the reasons were almost the same for leaving and for returning. Most people left the Church because they had a fight with the priest, had a falling out with someone in the ministry, or felt ignored by the community. People came back to Church because either the priest or someone in ministry or a regular member befriended the person and invited them to return. It is the personal dimension that brings people in or drives them out.
All of us know the story of the Samaritan woman at the well. Once she recognized Jesus as the Messiah, she ran into the village and brought the people to Jesus. In the same way it was Andrew who brought Simon Peter to Jesus. What works in bringing someone to the Lord is personal invitation. Probably in our town, in our neighborhood or on our block there is someone who feels distant from the Church. Can we somehow invite them to come and see? Perhaps that person is waiting for our invitation. If they have been hurt by some experience in the Church, can we at least engage them in conversation?
When I lived in Rome I used to see young American men going from door to door evangelizing. Only later I discovered that they belonged to the Church of the Latter Day Saints. I also learnt that Mormons are required to spend two years of their lives as missionaries. We Catholics do not have any such requirement. However, it is our duty to bring people into the Church and help them encounter the Risen Lord in the Breaking of the Bread. Let us heed the call of Pope Francis who said, “The new evangelization calls for personal involvement on the part of each of the baptized. Every Christian is challenged, here and now, to be actively engaged in evangelization; indeed, anyone who has truly experienced God’s saving love does not need much time or lengthy training to go out and proclaim that love” (The Joy of the Gospel, #120).
We do an excellent job of welcoming people who come to our church. How about going out into the streets and inviting them to come in? We are a liturgical community. We are a praying community. Can we also become an evangelizing community?
May the Holy Trinity enable us to fulfill the Great Commission Jesus has given us!
Born in India to deeply-committed Catholic parents, Fr Britto is one of seven children. He joined the Salesians of Don Bosco as a young man and was ordained a priest in 1981.
After he completed his priestly formation and his early education in India, he came to the US for his graduate degree in Journalism at...Read more...