June 5, 2013
By Father William Muench
Not long ago, I was visited by a man who was inquiring about entering the Catholic Church. As we talked more about his interest in becoming Catholic, he mentioned a man who worked near him at the plant. This man is a Catholic – and my visitor was very impressed with him. He realized that much of the way he lived was the result of his faith in God. He said to me, “I wanted what he had.”
A person living out his Catholic faith in the Lord as best he could each day, had touched another in a special way. I knew who my visitor was talking about and I must agree he is a very impressive and faith filled person. Yet, I know that he would be very surprised if I were to tell him that he was so considered to be such a great Catholic. I know he would be surprised that his life style had convinced another to convert.
My hope is that many will realize that they can be such a profound influence on others. I believe that many do not realize how a faith filled life can and does change others. People notice. People need to see a model they can imitate.
The Church has always faced this challenge of bringing the Gospel of Christ to the people of the world, getting the word out about the message of Jesus and the teachings of the Church.
We, the people of God, know that when people hear the Gospel and experience a relationship with Jesus, they will become dedicated and follow the Lord. They will be anxious to learn more and more. However, the challenge will always be getting others to hear the message and to understand the power of that message.
Many Catholics believe that this is the task of the priests – or maybe the deacons – or the religious Sisters. And, of course, it is an important part of the dedication of priests and Sisters. However, the Second Vatican Council reminded all that the laity – the lay men and women of the Church – must be involved in this challenge to bring the message of Christ to this world.
We call this evangelization. By Baptism, all Catholics are called to bring Jesus to the world, to bring the message of Christ to all people of this world – to use every opportunity to be evangelizers.
Many think of this as an impossible task for them, often, because they are not ordained and haven’t made religious vows. Yet, Jesus has promised that the Holy Spirit will give everyone the gifts needed to accomplish this task of evangelization, the challenge of bringing the Gospel to the World.
The gifts of the Spirit are many, though different, yet by working together all can bring Christ to this world. Catholics, working together, can reach so many.
There is a temptation for people to believe that they are incapable of evangelization. I have heard many say that they are not holy enough or smart enough – so they would never be successful in bringing Christ to this world. Many believe that they don’t really matter – there are many others who are more talented.
Yet, I believe very firmly that each and every person has a part in this task. I have often thought that the tempter’s strategy is to convince a person that they shouldn’t try because they will never be successful. Don’t bother – you don’t matter.
I have sadly seen some parents who are so convinced that their guidance to their teenagers will not change anything, that it doesn’t matter what they say, that they will never be successful – so they don’t even try.
I have seen too many Catholics who are truly convinced that they are not needed by the Church. They believe they are not important to the Church, so they do not bother. How sad! All are important.
This kind of temptation can even touch priests who may become convinced that their homilies are not important. They don’t believe that the will be listened to so they do not use their opportunities as well as they should.
The challenge is that we are all called and all gifted - gifted by the Holy Spirit – with gifts that can change the world. I believe that God calls us to use our gifts well. Even if a person has only one gift, it may be the gift needed at this time.
Each of us can and must work together – sharing our gifts – working with our pastors to transform each parish into a faith filled, alive place. Pray often to the God who loves you, to Jesus who lived and died and rose again for us, to the Holy Spirit whose inspiration gives us power – that each one of us may discover our gifts and put them to work in making our world a better.