Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
“How was your weekend?”
People ask us this question all the time. In response, we talk freely about different things we did over the weekend — but we often (and studiously!) avoid mentioning anything about church. Jesus could rightly point this out and name it for what it is — a double standard.
Next week people are going to ask us, “How was your Thanksgiving?” In response, we’ll talk about the things we did and tell stories about things that happened with family and friends. And in the retelling, we’ll relish details of the food and the events and the relationships.
The first thing I want to say is, all of that is good!
But I want to add one point. The term “Eucharist” is a Greek word that translates into English as “thanksgiving.” In other words, as Americans we celebrate a big Thanksgiving once a year, but as Catholics we celebrate a little thanksgiving every week. So, when people ask us about our weekend, we can tell stories and relish details about how Jesus and faith and community were part of our weekend, just as naturally as we share stories about the Thanksgiving holiday.
I say this partly because we’re in the midst of a strategic pastoral planning process whose central focus is evangelization. Catholics are often unsure about what evangelization means or involves. One of the first and easiest things it involves is sharing our faith with others, and that can be as simple and natural as saying something about church — our little thanksgiving — when we tell them how our weekend was.
The comparison is important because it helps to clarify something. When we tell people about our weekend we’re not pushing our family traditions on them or pressuring them to convert to our family.
The same is true when we include elements of our faith life in that conversation. We’re not proselytizing — pushing religion on people or pressuring them to convert. We’re just inviting the conversation to run a little deeper. People are free to accept the invitation or not. But you’d be surprised how many people want to talk about faith, or God, or struggles and prayer — how many people would like the conversation to run a little deeper than the football game we watched or the soccer game we attended or the restaurant we tried.
We are going to reset some external structures of parish life in the next few years. But it doesn’t make sense to reset external structures without renewing internal structures of how we live and share the faith. In fact, quite the opposite is true: We want to reset the external structures of parish life precisely so that we can deepen the way we live and share the faith.
That means we need to start thinking and talking about what evangelization means for us as Catholics. The first thing I want to suggest is that evangelization — sharing the Good News — can start with something as simple as answering the question: “How was your weekend?”
Have a Happy Thanksgiving!