It is inspiring that so many Catholics are rising to the occasion created by the Coronavirus. Many are using creative techniques for the work of evangelization and ministry, which continue amidst the pandemic. Staying in place, self-quarantining, and social distancing have become real, everyday practices for many of us, but they don’t mean we can sit by idly, waiting for all of this to go away. There is plenty of work to be done by today’s disciples of Christ, which includes you and me.
Difficult and challenging times require us to increase our efforts and help one another focus on the Lord and his love for all. Pews in the church buildings may be empty, but the church has not gone away. We have been, and always will be, the church, wherever we are. Lumen Gentium reminds us that we are “the People of God.” The prophet Jeremiah shares the words of the Lord that came to him, “You shall be my people and I will be your God” (Jeremiah, 30:22). We are certainly individuals with unique talents and gifts to be shared, but God created us to exist in community with one another. Our world wasn’t created for one person, but for all of us to live in together. We live in communion with others at all times and are not meant to be in complete isolation, especially in such times as these.
God is profoundly present when people are together. But that looks a bit different today than it did a couple of weeks ago before many dioceses stopped public gatherings. We can become the presence of the Lord to one another through our everyday lives, even amidst these unique circumstances. Being attentive to one another is essential. When we evangelize, it is important to remember that there is a person on the other end of the phone, the computer, the conversation, or the action taking place.
Many have taken to social media to reach out during this crisis, which is great. I want to caution people that evangelization is more than talking at someone. It’s not merely meant to be a one-way communication. Evangelization is dynamic and people need to know they can participate in what’s taking place. People don’t simply need to be talked to. Instead, they need to be heard as well. Let us be purposeful in creating interactive participation in the work of evangelization.
Many have invited people to share their thought and prayer requests through social media posts. Some priests have gone as far as to invite parishioners to email photos of themselves, so they can be printed and put in the church pews and be remembered specifically as the Mass is prayed. What a great idea!
It also seems important to be intentional about reaching out beyond the regular crowd. There are others besides registered parishioners that need the good news of Christ’s gospel. This is an excellent time to think about creative ways to do so. We have an obligation to others that aren’t included in among the registered members. I’ve heard of people shopping for elderly individuals they don’t know and dropping off groceries at their doorstep. Others have donated more to local food banks. It is selfless acts of love that will get us through these days much more smoothly than the panicked hoarding at the stores that we’ve all heard about.
In recent days, I’ve received phone calls from friends that I haven’t heard from in a very long time. This reminds me of the value of conversation over the telephone. This is an excellent time to reach out and let others know that you’re thinking about them. An old-fashioned phone call could undoubtedly light up someone’s entire day, as they’re sitting at home during an order to “stay in place.”
Let us remember that Jesus is at the heart of all our efforts to serve others. We can’t share what we don’t have. Therefore, we, ourselves, are always in need of the Lord and his grace in our lives. Let us remain rooted in God through our prayer, and then pour out to others what we receive. Dynamic evangelization is recognizing that we are in this together. All of us are being evangelized and re-evangelized to some extent in all circumstances and at all times. It is work that never ends and never grows old.
May we continue to creatively respond to the challenges that we’re faced with as we learn what it means to evangelize in new times.
The writer is Director of Youth & Young Adult Ministry with the
Archdiocese of Anchorage.