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Bible Catechism Conversion Evangelization Mass

Be ready!

bible-SunlightOne of my favorite verses in the Bible is 1 Peter 3:15.

…always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope…

What that means to me is that, as followers of Jesus Christ, as the very partakers of His Body and Blood, we should conduct ourselves and our lives in such a way that people wonder about our hope.

But the next part of this is very important. How do we answer?

I had the unexpected blessing of being asked about the reason for our hope the other day. A young woman spends time with our family, helping us with our children. I’ll call her Annie. She asked me a really interesting question about whether, in our faith, we have beliefs about circumcising male children. She told me that she had always wanted to ask someone this but had been too embarrassed. Since we spend a lot of time changing diapers together, it was, humorously, finally the right time.

After discussing this issue in as a clear and straightforward a way as I could, she told me that she was hopeful to start attending church with her children. Having accompanied me to a Bible study once at our local Catholic parish to help with the kiddos, I encouraged her to start coming to Mass.

She immediately answered that she had loved it there, for the brief two or three hours that she had been inside. Having bravely attended daily Mass with us, she said she had felt accepted in spite of obviously “being new” and not knowing what to do. She felt people reached out to her and were welcoming to her, and that the priest did not hesitate to give her a blessing when that time came.

Annie then mentioned that she had tried to read the Bible but was usually unsuccessful because it was so large and confusing.

I quickly started compiling materials. This was one of those hope moments, and she loves books. I passed along to her a small edition with just the New Testament, Psalms, and Proverbs, explaining that the whole Bible can be a lot to tackle and can happen in time. I asked my daughter to fetch her beloved copy of YouCat, feeling sad to have not stocked up more copies. I explained that, although a youth catechism, it is an accessible read with a very appealing format. On top of this, the parish had distributed hundreds of copies of Rediscovering Catholicism by Matthew Kelly, with an encouraging note tucked inside by the pastor of the parish. She received these three books with tremendous excitement and gratitude.

Phew. Thank you, God.

I loved being able to honestly tell her that she can enter into the Church at whatever level she feels comfortable. There are classes for adults and children who are interested in learning more and becoming Catholic, and that she can take her time to discern that and pray and get to know us first. Most importantly, she can start to learn about Jesus and get to know Him there, in the Blessed Sacrament.

Now, to stock up the book shelves. I need to be ready for more of these moments!

What are the resources you like to have on hand when someone asks you about your hope? What does your parish do to be ready?

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Evangelization Faith Formation Ink Slingers Michelle Spiritual Growth

What Happens at Mass, Stays at Mass

Unless you don’t have television and haven’t for a long time, you have probably seen the wildly popular campaign ad from Las Vegas “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.”  The commercials show people engaging in a variety of activities that normally they wouldn’t consider doing in their everyday lives.  But, rest assured, because they are in Vegas they can have an “anything goes” type of attitude and as such, engage in all sorts of activities that typically would go against their morals and their common sense.

We’ve incorporated this attitude into much of our daily lives- “what happens at the office, stays at the office”, “what happens at girls’ night out, stays at girls’ night out”, “what happens at school, stays at school”.  While sometimes this can be good (think, leaving your stress at work instead of bringing it home to your family), there are times that it could be bad (think being bullied at school but not bringing that home for your parents to help you through).  We have to be cautious when we decide to employ the idea of “what happens here, stays here”.

The Holy MassOne place we should never incorporate this adage, and yet many of us do, is with the Mass.  So many of us take the attitude of “What happens at Mass, stays at Mass” when really this is the very last place we should live with this motto.  In fact, we are instructed to do just the opposite!  At the end of every Mass we hear the words, “The Mass is ended. Go in peace to love and serve the Lord.”  But how do we serve the Lord?  Is it only through our prayers?  Is it through our service?  Or are we also called to serve the Lord by actually <gasp> talking to others about our faith?

The answer of course is “all the above”.  We are not only called to pray and help others but we are called to share our faith through evangelization.  I know you are a little bit scared now and thinking to yourself, “Well, wait just a minute… I’m not going to door to door like people from other faiths do! I’m definitely not going to stand on a street corner with a bullhorn shouting scripture either!  Not only that, but I’m not going to put little pamphlets underneath people’s windshield wipers at the Walmart that tell all about my faith. I’m not comfortable doing those sorts of things!”  That’s ok.  The Church doesn’t ask you to do any of that.  But if not in those ways, how?  And maybe more importantly, why?

Let’s tackle the why first, shall we?  When we look at Scripture we see that Jesus commanded his disciples to “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matt. 28:19-20. This teaching doesn’t end with the disciples.  It carries forward to us, to all believers.  We are called, no, we are commanded, to go to all nations and share the Lord’s love, His Word, and all His teachings.   But, wait, doesn’t that just mean the pastors of the Church?  Surely Jesus doesn’t mean us too, right?  Wrong… we are likewise called to spread our faith to others.  The Catechism clearly states our duties:

904 “Christ . . . fulfills this prophetic office, not only by the hierarchy . . . but also by the laity. He accordingly both establishes them as witnesses and provides them with the sense of the faith [sensus fidei] and the grace of the word”438

To teach in order to lead others to faith is the task of every preacher and of each believer.439

905 Lay people also fulfill their prophetic mission by evangelization, “that is, the proclamation of Christ by word and the testimony of life.” For lay people, “this evangelization . . . acquires a specific property and peculiar efficacy because it is accomplished in the ordinary circumstances of the world.”440

This witness of life, however, is not the sole element in the apostolate; the true apostle is on the lookout for occasions of announcing Christ by word, either to unbelievers . . . or to the faithful.441

We can clearly see that spreading the Gospel and teaching others is not a job that is left up solely to our priest.  We, the laity, have been commanded to do so as well.

You may be asking yourself “How can I do this if I don’t want to go door to door or stand on a corner with bullhorn or even walk around Walmart with a bunch of pamphlets telling all about Jesus’ life and death?” Thankfully there are many ways to share your faith and share the Gospels!

bible studyThe first thing you must do is learn your faith! If you don’t know your faith, you can’t accurately share it with others.  Learn why you believe what you do. Learn what the Church teaches and why.  You don’t have to be a theological scholar to share your faith but it helps to know what Jesus taught and how the Church upholds those teachings now.  Read your Bible.  Study the catechism.  Go to Mass.  Receive the Sacraments often. Pray.  In essence, evangelize yourself first.

Next, live your life in a manner that glorifies the Lord.  When you do people will naturally learn about your faith.  They can see God’s love and light shining through all you do.  Even if they are not familiar with the Christian faith they will see in you a love that will draw them to you and ultimately to God.  They may not recognize it as such but God’s light will touch them.   We have heard the quote, “Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words!”  We need to put this into action… living the way that Christ has taught us in the Gospels and allowing our lives become testimonies to His love.

However, we can’t stop there.  Christ did not say, “Live out my love and convert others through your quiet ways.”  He specifically says, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15) He calls us to action! We are not called to convert, that is the job of the Holy Spirit, but we are called to speak of our faith to others.  We need to invite others to worship with us.  We need to share the Word of God with those who will hear it. If you see or hear someone misrepresenting the faith, gently correct them.  Use social media to share God’s love.  Don’t be afraid to pray in public.  Stand up for what is right and good.  Get involved in ecumenical groups so that you can witness your faith to others.  Don’t be afraid to profess your faith!

dare to be a discipleWe may think that as Catholic Christians we are not called to evangelize.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  We need to ditch the idea of “What happens in Mass, stays in Mass” and remember that at the end of every Mass we hear the words, “The Mass is ended, go in peace to love and serve the Lord.”  We are called to serve the Lord by sharing the Gospel readings and their messages, not by keeping them to ourselves.  Sharing our faith can be difficult, especially for someone who is an introvert by nature, but there are ways that each of us can help others come to know God.  God may call us to witness in different ways but He does call every single one of us.  Pray that the Holy Spirit will guide you in learning how to share your faith in the best way possible.

As Pope Francis said in Rio at the World Youth Day, “Do not be afraid to go and to bring Christ into every area of life, to the fringes of society, even to those who seem farthest away, most indifferent. The Church needs you, your enthusiasm, your creativity and the joy that is so characteristic of you. ‘Do not be afraid!’ When we go to proclaim Christ, it is he himself who goes before us and guides us. When he sent his disciples on mission, he promised: ‘I am with you always’ (Mt 28:20). And this is also true for us! Jesus does not leave us alone, he never leaves you alone! He always accompanies you.”