Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Evangelization: Witness to Christ's Victory
When I was in high school, a seminarian was assigned to my home parish. His influence and friendship became a signpost for me in the development of my priestly vocation. During the past few years, one of the parishes that I serve has been blessed to have seminarians that are either from the parish, assigned to the parish, or who just like to spend time here. Some are from the diocesan seminary and a few are from religious orders. Their vocations were either born in this parish or they find nourishment here. What really strikes me about their presence is the tremendous love that they receive from the parishioners.
The people love seminarians. They encourage their vocations. They pray for them and support them. They feel particularly honored and blessed that these men are among them. Their presence also encourages others to consider the priesthood. I think the people are really happy to see normal men who are so happy to be preparing for the priesthood. The people of the parish find joy in the vocation of these men and the men are encouraged by the love and joy of the parishioners.
Sometimes, people here ask, "What vocation crisis?" They see, firsthand, young men who have either been sent here as part of their preparation for the priesthood or they see young men who go from the parish to enter the seminary. The presence of these seminarians makes the parish feel young and part of something new. They see that Christ is still calling men to follow him. They feel honored that they are part of something so important and so beautiful. And, they can more easily encourage their sons to consider the priesthood because their sons see, know, and love these other men who are doing the same thing.
When I witness the love that the people and the seminarians have for each other in this parish, I am deeply grateful. They mutually enrich one another by their beautiful example. The people see these men and love them for willing to lay down their lives to be shepherds. The seminarians see these tremendous people and are encouraged and strengthened in their desire to become shepherds after the heart of Christ.
It is a privilege to witness the love that these parishioners and these seminarians share. Sometimes, people--and priests, especially--talk as though everything were in decline. But, the presence of one priestly vocation in a parish is a an unconquerable sign of Christ's victory. It is too easy to talk about how difficult everything is. But, the Church is built on witnessing to the victory of Christ. The apostles had to evangelize the entire world from scratch. That must have been a daunting prospect. But, they did it. They did it by bearing witness to the victory of Christ.
As we think about evangelization, we ought not to focus on all of the obstacles. We ought not to focus on all of the people who have rejected the Gospel, who have not become priests, who have not been faithful. We ought to witness to the power of Christ's victory in the lives of those who are faithful--and this witness will draw others to respond to Christ's invitation to "follow me."