Monday, December 19, 2016

Bringing the Gospel to the marketplace this Advent

According to the proverb, it’s better to light a single candle than to curse the darkness. 

Sometimes I think we forget this and can allow ourselves to be overwhelmed by things going on around us.

In the Church, we can get caught up with the problems rather than trying to do what we can. 

We can spend endless hours at meetings worrying about youth ministry, and yet, in the end, nothing gets done about youth ministry other than more meetings.

Advent is a time when Christians rejoice at the coming of Christ. To rejoice, we must first put away selfishness and learn to love. When we find ourselves joyless or listless, often the best thing we can do is some concrete act of love. Christianity is not a self-help organisation, it’s about helping others. 

The spiritual journey is to integrate our relationship with God and the people around us, it’s not a project the end goal of which is fulfilment. The great paradox is that in losing our lives for others, we gain life.

Pope Francis never tires of reminding Catholics that the Faith is not something to be kept hidden like a miser with his treasure – it is a gift to be shared. Many dioceses in the US give this concrete expression during Advent by running advertising campaigns aimed at the lapsed saying simply ‘Come home for Christmas’.

We’ve seen similar initiatives in parishes in Ireland where priests and parishioners have literally taken the Gospel message to the marketplace by setting up stands in shopping centres. 

Some people will tell you that confession has died out amongst Catholics as a practice, yet as these events show, people are queuing up to be unburdened and have the grace of their sins being forgiven.

Priests who participated in the ‘Mercy in the Mall’ initiative in Co. Clare on December 8 reported it as being a worthwhile and fulfilling experience that built on the success of last year. The key thing in evangelisation is to respond to a felt need that people have. 

The shopping centre management reported that they had people calling the centre asking when Santa was coming and also asking when Confessions will be available again. This is a tremendous way for people to reconnect and rekindle their faith.

Jesus didn’t spend his time sitting around in the Temple or teaching in the Synagogue – in fact there are only three references in the Gospels to Christ being in a place of worship. 

This is not to minimise the important part the local church plays in the community or the necessity of Sunday Mass for the life of a Christian, but it’s about heeding the Pope’s call to go to where people are to bring the Gospel to them.

Some initiative will work, others will fail, but we shouldn’t let potential failure discourage us. 

It’s better to have tried ten things, nine of which fail than to have tried nothing.

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