Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Evangelized by Love on My Birthday

Evangelization doesn't come out of a box.  It doesn't happen because we meet together and decide to evangelize.  It doesn't happen because we form a committee, write a document, or plan a program.  It happens because of a personal encounter that moves us.  We cannot skip over this or hope that it happens later.  Committees dissolve, documents get shuffled and fade from memory, and programs eventually fizzle.  What remains is the lived experience of the encounter.  When we live and are moved by this encounter, this is where evangelization happens.  We cannot resist sharing with others the joy of what we have encountered.  

Very early this morning, I received a text from one of the students at BU, wishing me a happy birthday.  Attached was a photograph of a chair lift that he proposed installing on the stairs at the Catholic Center in order to help me get up and down the stairs now that I am so elderly.  With that text began a day long flood of well-wishes from a great many people.  They included a billion age jokes, some thoughtful sentiments, a video of a family of little kids all singing happy birthday amid gales of laughter, and many assurances of prayer.

The day began with a Holy Hour prayed with a great friend.  During Holy Hour I began reading a wonderful book sent to me by some dear friends of mine.  Then I had Mass with our Catholic Center community.  After Mass there was cake and a warped conversation that included such topics as: various ways to die, embarrassing times we've fallen asleep, beekeeping, and a psychological evaluation of my dog.  

After that, I drove to my old parish where I had a delicious meal with some wonderful friends.  Pork wrapped with pancetta, salad, and risotto.  My mouth just watered again as I typed that.  I often ate dinner with this couple and their seven children when I was pastor there.  It's been almost six months since I've been able to visit with them, so it was great to hang out, catch up, and have a lot of laughs.  One of the best parts of being a parish priest was being close to families.  One of the best parts of being a college chaplain is hanging out with and being close to the students.

Today, through the friendship of the Church, I encountered the love of Jesus Christ.  I can only be faithful to this love, to this friendship.  When you live something like this, you realize that it is something that is not static or manufactured.  It is something that is living and that is moving.  It moves you to do something.  It moves you to follow and it moves you to announce, to evangelize.  We can only announce the good news to others if we have truly encountered that good news ourselves.  

I need to be evangelized if I have any hope of evangelizing others.  This evangelization happens in my life through the friendship of the Church.  It has been my experience--both in parish life and in Campus Ministry--that evangelization flows from encountering Christ in the friendship of His Church.  If we hope to be better evangelizers, we should focus our immediate attention on loving one another as friends in Christ.  We should focus our immediate attention on how to love one another.  

To all of those who expressed their love today--be it in kind words or through insulting my age--thank you for preaching the Gospel of love to me.  You are my evangelizers. 

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