Saturday, December 8, 2012

A Voice in the Wilderness! (Advent 2.C)

On Tuesday I mentioned to a very active member of our parish that the Christmas dinner planned for tonight had been cancelled due to poor ticket sales. “Oh,” he said with a look of surprise, “Were we going to have a parish Christmas dinner?”

Twice he’d walked past a table with flashing lights and volunteers in Santa caps. Twice he’d almost have knocked over another volunteer standing at the door wearing flashing lights! And he’d taken home a bulletin featuring a full-colour Christmas tree decorated with knives, forks and spoons—not to mention hearing announcements from the pulpit.

You have to agree that communication in the digital age is sure not easy! I almost wonder whether anyone would notice if the hills really were made low and the valleys filled up.

However, the last time I looked both our local mountains were still standing, and Lynn Valley didn’t fill up overnight. So how will the prophetic voice be heard in the modern wilderness? How is the path to be made smooth for the countless men and women who need the salvation that John the Baptist proclaimed at the top of his voice?

Let me start to answer the question by reminding you that fifty years ago television was called a “vast wasteland” in a famous speech.  What could be more fitting, therefore, than to proclaim Christ and his promise of salvation on television—which is even more of a wilderness today than it was fifty years ago?

Starting this week, commercials inviting Catholics to come home to the Church will air on all the local stations—except, of course, the CBC. (It’s frightened by religious messages, even when they’re paid for.)

These advertisements aren’t like the ones you see for soap. If people like an ad for Tide, they’ll just head off and buy it. The Catholics Come Home ads are more like those for cars—they plant a seed, but in most cases it will take a real person—a salesperson—to sell the car.

Catholics Come Home gives each of us a relatively easy way to invite friends and family back to church. You can ask them if they saw one of the commercials on TV and start a conversation that ends with an invitation. You can send a link to one of the ads by e-mail—they’re all on the web—or put it on Facebook if you’re young enough.

But most of all you can pray. You know the words of the Psalm—unless God builds the house, the builders labour in vain. We’re not selling soap, or cars, but the salvation promised by God. The commercials are a spark which we must fan, but the fire that will warm hearts comes from the Holy Spirit.

In our second reading today, we heard St. Paul tell the Christians at Philippi of his confidence “that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion.” God’s good work in your sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, neighbours and friends, began at their baptism. If they have stopped participating in the life of the Church, how will it reach completion unless we call them home?

Every great enterprise begins with a first step.  The first step is to make a list of those near and dear to you who have left the Church.  Then begin to pray for them daily as you ask God to show you the next step. It might be an e-mail; it might be one of the attractive “We Miss You” brochures that offer a personal invitation.

I’ve heard too many stories from sad parents whose children join them in church only at Christmas. Let’s stop feeling helpless in the face of the secular society that has led so many away from the Church—many of them with no beef against the Church, just distraction, confusion or busyness.

With God’s help, it can change. But God will look to us, as he looked to John the Baptist, to be prophetic voices crying out even in the spiritual desert that surrounds us.

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