Column: New evangelization is work of the entire church

Leon Suprenant is the pastoral associate for administration in the office of the permanent diaconate. He also blogs at: www.archkck.org/blog.
Leon Suprenant is the pastoral associate for administration in the office of the permanent diaconate. He also blogs at: www.archkck.org/blog.

Leon Suprenant

In the weeks leading up to baseball’s postseason, we’ve heard much about the Royals’ efforts to secure “home-field advantage” throughout the playoffs.

In every sport, we recognize that there’s an advantage to being the home team. We naturally want to play in comfortable, familiar surroundings rather than venture into unfriendly territory.

Unfortunately, we tend to apply this principle to life in the church.

Many years ago, I was in a theology class taught by Scott Hahn in which he posed a question about how to respond to a Protestant interpretation of a passage from St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans. Students started offering suggestions based on the Letter of St. James and various church teachings.

Finally, Hahn interrupted, saying, “Wait a minute! Romans is a ‘home game’ for Catholics.” He emphasized that Romans is not a “Protestant” book that needs to be countered with a “Catholic” book like James. Rather, he wanted the students to understand Romans and claim it as their own.

We might all agree that a “new evangelization” is necessary but, as Catholics, we might not consider evangelization a “home game.” We’re not very good at it. Give us rosaries, fish fries and Notre Dame games, but not evangelization! We might be uncomfortable at the prospect of leaving our comfortable (or not so comfortable) pews and actually sharing with others about our faith in Jesus.

I get it. It can be daunting to engage others, perhaps even strangers, on this level — especially when no one has shown us how to do it. But if we’re honest, we’ll also admit that we might lack the passion for the faith that urges us (cf. 2 Cor 5:14) to share it with others.

The church in northeast Kansas is setting out to build a new “culture of evangelization.” We understand that the first priority of this venture is the renewal of our own hearts and minds in Christ. Our openness to the Holy Spirit will help us overcome the lukewarmness and fear that holds us back. It’s one thing to know the truth; it’s quite another to let the love of Christ course through our veins, informing all that we do.

The new evangelization is the work of the entire church — clergy and laity. In our archdiocese, we are blessed not only to have 25 deacons, but another 40 men in formation for the diaconate. St. John Paul II referred to the deacon as putting flesh on the church’s service.

In engaging the materially and spiritually poor, deacons embody the truth that evangelization is not a numbers game or mere social work, but extending the merciful love of Christ to the world around us — at home and away.

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