Often it is our deep faith that leads us to seek out those in need to offer them a helping hand. We want to put our faith into action. For some, it works the other way around and their actions lead them to a deeper faith.
It’s difficult to pass by a store during Valentine’s Day season without seeing hearts or red roses in display windows. While its roots are attributed to selfless acts of kindness by St. Valentine in 3rd century Rome, today the holiday has become symbolic of romantic love and a pretext for marketing its trappings.
In The Joy of the Gospel (Evangelii Gaudium), Pope Francis humorously asserts that both the laity and the clergy have been known to suffer from homilies, one from the listening and one from the preaching! In contrast, he maintains that good preaching “can actually be an intense and happy experience of the Spirit, a consoling encounter with God’s word, a constant source of renewal and growth” (EG, 135).
Imagine the gifts under a Christmas tree when a large extended family gets together to celebrate. There are presents of all sizes and shapes. There are gifts in a variety of wrappings, some clothed with exquisite paper and delicate ornaments, some bundled in simple brown paper, and some hidden underneath the pile. Guessing what’s inside is one of the most enjoyable parts of the celebration.
As we approach the celebration of the birth of our Lord, parish leaders are busy making many preparations. We know that our churches will be filled with people we may not see on a regular basis. Christmas is a wonderful opportunity to be intentional about welcoming these visitors to our parish. Helping newcomers feel welcomed can make the difference between their staying strangers or becoming members of our community.
“Then the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’
But Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?’ And the angel said to her in reply, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.’” (Luke 1:30-35)
Mission is the very heart of evangelization. It permeates all that we do as a Church, as a parish, and as missionary disciples of Jesus Christ. The five key features of an evangelizing parish—Sunday, Welcome, Belonging, and Witness— all matter, because Mission matters! Our mission is to share in the one mission of Christ.
The word “evangelization” has meant different things to different people in various places and at various times in history. Today, the Church has a refreshed emphasis on what she calls “the new evangelization” in keeping with the trends and challenges of modern society.