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Fr. Tim’s Homily for April 2, 2017

Fifth Sunday of Lent -A

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Ezekiel 37: 12-14

Romans 8: 8-11

John 11: 1-45

 

 

Matthew Kelly, The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic, pages 143-187

Chapter 5:  “Changing the World”

EVANGELIZATION

The prophet Ezekiel, in the first reading today, takes us to a cemetery. What a cheerful thought, right? – until we listen to what God says through Ezekiel:  “O my people, I will open your graves and have you rise from them…  I will put my spirit in you that you may live.”

We see that prophecy being fulfilled in today’s Gospel with the raising of Lazarus from the dead.  Mary, Martha and Lazarus – two sisters and a brother – had a home that Jesus loved to visit.  It was a place for Him to just get away from the crowd, be with close friends, have a good meal, share some conversation, and then be ready to get back at it again.

Jesus had been told that Lazarus was ill.  But by the time Jesus got there Lazarus was already dead and in the tomb for four days.

The Gospel says that Jesus wept.  He cried, and people said, “See how He loved him.” (Any of you who right now are mourning the loss of someone you love know what Jesus felt.)

And then at the tomb, Jesus, showing that He was the Lord of Life, said:  “Take away the stone.”  Then He commanded in a loud voice:   “Lazarus, come out!”

Lazarus came out, all dressed in his burial wrappings.  He looked like a mummy, but he was alive.  Then Jesus said:  “Untie him and let him go.”

Jesus raised Lazarus to life from the grave.

“O my people, I will open your graves and have you rise from them…  I will put my spirit in you that you may live.”

The Scriptures today are about life.  And so is chapter 5 in Matthew Kelly’s book, The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic, on the subject of evangelization.

It begins with this question:  How is the best way to live?  Because if we are going to evangelize – share the Gospel with others – we need to be convinced that following Jesus is indeed the best way to live.

Matthew Kelly remarks that the world is the way it is today because of human behavior.  What makes the world better or worse tomorrow?  The way we live our lives today.

Imagine all of the misery that could be avoided if we all just lived by the life-giving wisdom found in the Ten Commandments.  Think for a moment on all the suffering we see on the evening news that is caused because humanity has been unwilling to follow the wisdom of the Ten Commandments.

Every great civilization has concerned itself with this question:  How is the best way to live?  Our current secular culture has virtually no interest in pursuing this question.  Today we are more interested in how we want to live than we are in discovering the best way to live.

Jesus’ answer to how the best way to live is:  “Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, with all of your soul, with all of your mind and with all of your strength… and love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 26: 37-39).

God wants to win you with His love and wisdom.  God wants to build you up spiritually so that you have the knowledge and habits to live in His love and walk in His ways.  And God wants to send you out into the world to share His love with others.

Win.  Build.  Send.  These are the three components of the process of evangelization.

Among the highly engaged Catholics who were interviewed as a part of this research, 89% described a conversion experience – an event in their life that won them to a more engaged relationship with God.

God wants to build in you a dynamic spirituality.  He wants our parishes to help people of all ages build a spiritual life so that through our regular spiritual routines He can build and refine all of us in His image – according to His dream for us – so that we can truly become the-best-versions-of-ourselves.

It is not enough to hope that this happens.  We need process and intentionality.  These are two of the key ingredients of effective evangelization.

Just like the other three signs of a Dynamic Catholic – prayer, study and generosity – evangelization isn’t just going to happen.  We need a plan.  And it is win, build and send.

Through the win and build stages, one of the things that happens to people is that they start to feel good about being Catholic.  We don’t talk anywhere near enough about this.  But it is absolutely essential to the life and growth of the Church.

Highly engaged Catholics feel good about being Catholic and are anxious to share their findings as “the best way to live.”  They are inspired – and inspiring – Catholics.

When Dynamic Catholics were asked what they did to try to share the faith with others, their top six answers were:

  1. Pass Catholic books and CDs around.
  2. Invite people to Catholic events.
  3. Bring a Godly perspective to conversations.
  4. Learn the Catholic teachings on certain issues and be able to articulate them when the Church is attacked over those issues in social settings.
  5. Help people discover answers to questions that cause them to doubt the Catholic faith.
  6. Demonstrate the love of God through faithful and generous friendship.

Evangelization is to the Church what breathing is to a person:  it is life-giving and life-sustaining.

Try to do one thing each week – even something very small – to share the faith with someone who crosses your path.

The fourth sign of a Dynamic Catholic is Evangelization.

Discussion questions on evangelization – “Changing the World” – are found inside this weekend’s bulletin as are the page numbers for next weekend’s conclusion of The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic:  “A New Level of Thinking.”

Until then, happy prayer, happy study, happy generosity, happy evangelization – and happy Lent, my fellow Dynamic Catholics!