Friday, July 12, 2013

Some Thoughts on the New Evangelization

Reflections on the Readings
July 14, 2013 - 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time- Year C

Some Thoughts on the New Evangelization

But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was; and when he saw him, he had compassion, and went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; then he set him on his own beast and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.

It was written in stone. The slab of stone stood about 3 feet high announcing its sacred and irrevocable message. Conspicuously placed at the front door of Buehler's grocery store in my hometown, it always made me think of the Ten Commandments written by the finger of God, for permanently cut into this granite like piece of stone was this affirmation: 

Rule # 1: The Customer 
Is Always Right.

Rule # 2: Refer to Rule # 1!

I've been in customer service for several years. It's a job that requires a lot of empathy and tact. If you have a weak stomach and have to have everybody's love and affection, please do not go into customer service. I can assure you that a disgruntled customer will cuss you, shout at you, or utter a wish for your violent demise and those closet to you. You will hear words your mother never taught you. Such encounters call into question the idea that the customer is always right!

In my early days of pastoral ministry, I read a number of 'church growth' books. Pastors of mega-sized churches wrote books and provided seminars on how to emulate what they had accomplished. I devoured such information. Debbie and I did some TV shows for a local TBN affiliate. I invited big name 'ministry' types to our fledgling church attempting to draw a crowd. I preached from notes, and not from notes. I did radio commentary work and wrote monthly newsletters. Never, ever, did I pastor a church of more than about 150 give or take. 

Much of what I read in so called 'church growth' manuals were corporate and consumer ideas repackaged in Christian jargon. Translated that means that these books and seminars espouse that the church is really in the customer service business. And in the customer service business its all about the consumer and what the customer wants because the customer is always right. One thing I learned through it all: If  the customer becomes dissatisfied for any reason, he looks for another seeker friendly church down the street. 

Fr. Patrick Reardon, an Orthodox priest says, "It is my sad impression that much of what passes for evangelism in this country is, in fact, only an exercise in religious consumerism, where various religious bodies exhibit their wares and compete with one another for larger shares of the shopping population. In such a context the pastor is chiefly a sales representative, whose major concern is customer satisfaction. I mean, exactly how does a pastor "reprove, rebuke, exhort" (2 Timothy 4:2) in a setting where "the customer is always right?"

Let's think for just a moment about St. Paul. In his missionary journeys his one and only concern was to make known the Christ he came to know and love on the Damascus Road. It was all about souls and introducing them to the love of the Redeemer; souls that would spend an eternity either with God in his beautiful heaven or in Hell, a place prepared for the devil and his minions. (Matthew 25:41)

Paul held nothing back for the sake of souls. In his itinerate ministry he wore the sacrifice of Christ in his physical body through afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, tumults, labors, and hunger. Yet he said to the Corinthians, "You're in my heart. Our mouth is open to you; our heart is wide." (2 Cor. 6:4-11) Souls - Souls - Souls was the beating of Paul's heart! That is still the meaning and effort of the missionary zeal of the Church - finding the lost and healing the souls in her care. Baptism begins the healing process, while the Sacraments of Confession and Eucharist sustain and continue the healing work of grace in our lives. 

Paul boasted in the only power able to bring men and woman to God. That power was and is the blood of the cross. What Christ did there on that lonely hill of suffering is still the great power of God to bring an end to the tyranny of sin. But sin's awful strength is no match for the "I LOVE YOU," that shouts from the blood of the cross. He who is the great reconciler of God and Man made peace by the blood of his cross. Christ himself effected that peace and declared it done when he used his last breaths to say, "It is finished." In that moment he ascended far above the principalities and powers arrayed against us. He defeated the gates of hell. In the blood of his cross, Christ is our Prince of Peace. In the blood of the cross forgiveness flows like a mighty river of mercy. Evangelism yesterday, today, and forever starts with the cross and the blood our Savior shed for all of us for our salvation. 

Like the Samaritan in today's Gospel reading, Jesus found us lying under the brutality of the devil. He found us wounded and dying in our sin. There he loved us back to life, pouring in the oil and the wine - the newness of life in the Spirit. 

On his shoulders he carried you and me back to his Father's house and said, "I've already paid for this one! Take good care of this precious soul whom I redeemed from the power of sin and death!"

And turning to me he said, "You're home now. Safe and sound!"

And that my friend you can write in stone. Amen.

Dennis Hankins is a parishioner at Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral, of the Diocese of Knoxville, TN.  Prior to uniting with the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil 2006, Dennis served as a priest in the Charismatic Episcopal Church. E-mail him at:   Visit him at:

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