Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
In Mass readings this week, we hear about how Solomon succeeded David as king of Israel.
It makes me think about a different kind of succession planning.
It used to be that parishes and schools would perpetuate themselves by the simple fact of birth. Physical multiplication was enough to keep us going and growing.
That’s no longer the case. If we’re going to grow now, we need to grow by spiritual multiplication. That’s what our recent focus on evangelization has been about.
Questions naturally arise: What does evangelization mean? How do we grow by spiritual multiplication?
We need to keep exploring that from various angles. For now, let’s focus on one aspect.
One of the keys to evangelization for us, in this moment in the history of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, is to shift from a focus on quantity to a focus on quality of interaction. What do I mean by that?
The readings this week give us a key insight. In simplest terms they encourage us, over and over, to “take the occasion.”
For example, on Feb. 2 we celebrate the feast of the Presentation, when Jesus was presented in the temple as an infant. Simeon “took the occasion” to proclaim the truth about Jesus, letting people know that He was God’s promised salvation. Anna “took the occasion” to proclaim the truth about this child “to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem” (Luke 2:38). Understand, this was not after Jesus had performed some mighty deed! It was before people had seen the works of God in Him. Realize, too, that the truth was not all sunshine and roses. Simeon also said that a sword would pierce Mary’s heart and that Jesus would be a sign of contradiction.
Similarly, all week long, Jesus “takes the occasion” to make some truth about the Kingdom known. He heals the Gerasene demoniac, which proclaims Jesus’ power over the enemy of humanity. He tells the woman with hemorrhages that her faith has made her well. He confronts the people in Nazareth with their lack of faith. At every turn we see Jesus taking the occasion to announce the Kingdom of God in some form or another.
Finally, we hear this week about how Jesus sent the apostles out on mission. You can bet that they “took the occasion” to announce the truth about Jesus and His Kingdom. They were engaged in spiritual multiplication.
Can we follow their lead?
Here’s one further distinction that can help us: We don’t have to make the occasion, we simply have to take the occasion. God the Father makes the occasions for us to proclaim who Jesus is and what He’s done for us. Our job is to recognize and take the occasion as it’s offered.
That’s a key element of succession planning for our parishes and schools today. Jesus is sending us out on mission. It’s a mission of spiritual multiplication. Spiritual multiplication requires us to take the occasion to proclaim the truth about Jesus. If we plant that seed, He’ll make it grow. Quantity will follow quality.