Welcoming: A Key to the New Evangelization
Our Catholic Church these days is wrestling with the call of the New Evangelization: how do we help people choose to really become Christians? A key is welcoming.
Pope Francis admonishes us: How many times do we see evangelization as involving any number of strategies, tactics, maneuvers, techniques, as if we could convert people on the basis of our own arguments. Today the Lord says to us quite clearly: in the mentality of the Gospel, you do not convince people with arguments, strategies or tactics. You convince them by learning how to welcome them.
The heart of what draws us the Catholic community is the Eucharist. This is the great command of Jesus: Do this in memory of me (Luke 22:19; I Corinthians 11:24). As Catholics we gather to celebrate this banquet of the Lord and to adore him present in our tabernacles.
And yet, our sense of community is oftentimes cold or perfunctory. There is little sense that Christ Jesus really has become present on our altar and in doing so has drawn us into one family. Catholics frequently seem to be focused on getting Communion and getting to the parking lot ahead of the rest of the crowd. Those who are alone - praying at Mass or reading the parish bulletin over a cup of coffee at a table in the Community Center - often do not experience welcome into a great Eucharistic community. They come, they stay and they leave in solitude.
In some other, non-Catholic Christian communities, hospitality has become an art form. They don’t offer just greetings at the door, adequate child care or visitor cards. The congregations are filled with people who own their personal responsibility to welcome anyone who comes and to help them to feel welcome.
People should not have to choose between the great sacrifice of the Eucharist and the warmth of a welcoming community. God calls us to both. You have not fulfilled your Sunday “obligation” unless you have prayed and participated in the Mass – yes, the whole Mass – and done your part to making others feel welcome. Doing your part certainly includes the sign of peace. But it may also mean acting as a greeter at the door, an usher during the liturgy, a server in the Community Center for coffee and donuts, a volunteer at the welcoming station in the back of church.
The bottom line, beloved, is that we are called not just to come to Mass, but to receive the Body of Christ into our hearts and then to be the Body of Christ for one another. Then and only then will we be a full Eucharistic community. Just as Jesus intended.