Columnists Life will be victorious

For whom does Jesus wish you to be an instrument of his grace?

Joseph F. Naumann is Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas.

by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann

Recently, I was in line at the checkout counter at a QuikTrip. The man in front of me was buying some lottery tickets. He told me that if he won, he would give several million dollars to the church. In fact, he went on to say that he would become Catholic. I told him that I would pray for him.

Of course, the archdiocese has plenty of places where we could use several million dollars to assist our ministries. My first priority would be to give a bonus to all our Catholic schoolteachers and chancery employees. I would love to be able to open a shelter for homeless women comparable to the Shalom Center that we have for men. It would be wonderful to open another residential home for women experiencing an untimely pregnancy. I would love to make Savior Pastoral Center handicap accessible, update the infrastructure, renovate the chapel and upgrade our guest rooms.

However, I would forego all of the above for the ability to share the gift of our Catholic faith with my checkout friend. Winning the lottery is not the best motivation for entering the church; however, the Lord can work with imperfect motivation and do some amazing things!

Easter is my favorite season of the year because so many adults are baptized or received into full communion with the Catholic Church. Many receive the Eucharist for the first time. Many young people and adults are confirmed, receiving the Holy Spirit and the spiritual gifts that the Spirit bestows. On Divine Mercy Sunday, in addition to all those who went to confession during Lent, many more receive the sacrament of reconciliation.

One of my favorite events of the entire year is celebrating Mass on Divine Mercy Sunday at St. Benedict’s Abbey Church and, within the context of Mass, baptizing and receiving into full communion with the Catholic Church several students of Benedictine College. This year, 19 young people were baptized, received into the church and/or confirmed.

With the high percentage of already Catholic Benedictine College students, 19 young adults receiving the sacraments of initiation is amazing. Sixteen of the students are athletes. This is not surprising, because many of the non-Catholics on campus are recipients of athletic scholarships.

The number of adults who enter the church at Easter is reflective of the vitality of our Catholic campus centers and our parish communities. The Catholic faith is innately attractive when it is lived well. The joy and peace that comes from our friendship with Jesus and being part of a vibrant community of faith is enticing. 

I told our new Catholic athletes that being Catholic is a team sport. You cannot live the Gospel by yourself. By its nature, Christianity must be shared in a community of friends. Our Catholic faith, lived in a vibrant community of fellow believers, is the antidote to the high levels of loneliness, anxiety, depression and even despair that plague very many young Americans.

I encourage you to consider: Who in your family, friends, neighbors and co-workers are not Catholic, maybe not even Christian?  In your prayer, ask Jesus whom he desires for you to be his instrument of grace? 

Pray for those God places on your heart. Spend time with them. Share meals with them. Foster a deeper relationship with them. Ask them: What is it you can pray for them?  Invite them to pray with you.

At some point, you might invite them to read and discuss one of the Gospels with you. Using the Holy Family School of Faith daily meditations, you might invite them to pray the rosary with you. Eventually, you might invite them to come to Mass with you. When you do, be prepared to answer questions about the Eucharist and the real presence of Jesus.

I do not believe my QuikTrip acquaintance won the lottery. The archdiocese has not received several million dollars from an anonymous donor. However, I continue to pray for this man. I pray that he might encounter Jesus and his church.

Sadly, there are many reports about lottery winners whose lives are a wreck after receiving their lottery fortune. Being instrumental in helping someone encounter Jesus and become part of his church is better than winning a lottery.

Money and the material things it can buy will not fulfill the longings of our hearts. We are built for communion with God and friendship with fellow believers. The odds of winning the lottery are stacked against us. We cannot lose when we open our hearts to Jesus and invite others to experience his love.

About the author

Archbishop Joseph Naumann

Joseph F. Naumann is the archbishop for the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas.

Leave a Comment