Celebrating Evangelization Sunday and the joy of homecoming

On Christmas Day, for the first time ever, my father, his four children and his four grandchildren were together. This was also the first meeting of my brother, nephew and niece with the newborn in our family, Ricky, who is 14 months old. Our family is rarely all together because my younger sister lives in Southern California and my brother lives in Maryland. Whenever we gather together as a family, we miss whoever is not with us, and we pray for that family member and feel their absence. Gathering with our father on Christmas Day was a precious experience of the fullness of family and the joy of homecoming for us.

When we gather together for the sacred celebration of Mass, in the living presence of the Lord, we gather as family and we miss those who are not with us. We cherish our love for God and wish all to experience the peace and joy that comes from Christ and our faith. We want to be together completely as a family. Prior to every Sunday Mass, I pray for those who are not with us including: our deployed troops, those who are in hospitals, prisons and homebound, and those who have not yet returned to the community of faith. As a new year begins, throughout the archdiocese, we are making a special effort of outreach to our brothers and sisters who are no longer celebrating Mass with us.

In response to Pope John Paul II's challenge for a "New Evangelization" and Pope Benedict XVI's call for a "New Pentecost" the Archdiocese of Boston is partnering with CatholicsComeHome.org to invite those who have become distant in the life of the Church to renew the practice of their Catholic faith. Cardinal Seán has designated this Sunday, Jan. 23, as Evangelization Sunday. In each of our 290 parishes, a homily from the cardinal will be played which reflects the theme of evangelization in this Sunday's Scriptures. Just as the fishermen Simon and Andrew dropped their nets to follow the call of Jesus, "Come after me," and just as the brothers James and John left their nets (and their father!) in the boat to accompany Jesus (Mt 4:18-22), so you and I are called to invite others to know the person and friendship of Jesus Christ through the worshipping community of our Catholic family. This Sunday, as well, we will hear St. Paul urge the young Christian community of Corinth, and our Church today, to "be united in the same mind and in the same purpose" (1 Cor. 1:10). This unity finds its heart and center in the Risen Christ, present most fully in the Catholic faith. As "ambassadors of Christ" (2 Cor. 5:20), we are all called to bring the saving message and ministry of Christ, particularly to those who have drifted from Catholicism, their spiritual home. We bring the Gospel message to others most fully by choosing to live in our daily circumstances with faith, integrity and joy, and by supporting the outreach ministry of the Church.

On this Evangelization Sunday there will be a second collection to support the Catholics Come Home initiative. I ask you to please be as generous as your means allow in response. On this weekend, at which we also remember the sad anniversary of Roe vs. Wade (Jan. 22), we are encouraged to promote a culture of life by speaking and acting passionately when life is threatened or extinguished and by sharing the priceless gift of life in Christ. By living and acting fully our Catholic faith, we will experience the joy of being part of God's family and, in the process, become living invitations to our brothers and sisters to make the journey home.

Father Erikson is Vicar General and Moderator of the Curia of the Archdiocese of Boston.