God gets personal
I'm really not a program person. Mostly, it's because I'm convinced that God isn't either. Why? Because it seems to me that there's plenty of evidence to the contrary. Here's what I mean. When humankind fell, God himself went looking for Adam in the garden, calling him by name. When sinning became a universal lifestyle choice, he personally gave Noah instructions for building the ark. God visited Abraham and Sarah, promising the birth of Isaac within the year. He wrestled with Jacob, spoke to Joseph in dreams, came to Moses in the burning bush, and sent him back to Pharaoh to bring his people out of Egypt. God opened the sea, wrote the Ten Commandments on stone with his finger, guided Israel through the desert with a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. God rained bread down from heaven, sent quail into their camps, and brought them water from a rock. He met them in a tent, and ruled them from the seat of his mercy. God led them into the land he had promised, and brought the walls of Jericho crashing down. He chose the youngest of Jesse's sons, and gave David victory over the Philistine giant. God flooded the Temple with his glory, and consumed Elijah's sacrifice on Mount Carmel. He sent prophets to warn the people, to lament their exile, and to rebuild their walls when they returned. God remained with his people, in peace and fidelity, through wars and famines, even in the lion's den and the fiery furnace.
And if all that wasn't personal enough, in the fullness of time, God sent his Son Jesus, born of the Virgin Mary. The history of his earthly life is a litany of personal intervention, of divine presence in the real lives of real people. Jesus proclaims truth, forgives sins, relieves suffering, and even raises the dead. He works miracles, reinterprets the self-revelation God had entrusted to Israel. He shows us how to be fully human. He offers himself on the cross for our salvation, and rising from the dead, transforms death itself into a door to eternal life. And Jesus, we are told, is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
God doesn't send substitutes. He shows up himself and calls us to come along with him. And as faith and history testify, he shows up in more ways than we can imagine. God does not send books, programs, or institutions in his place. But that doesn't mean that God doesn't make use of books, programs, or institutions. Evidently, he even makes use of advertising campaigns.
The ads produced by Catholics Come Home are both uplifting and effective. I expect they'll bring many disaffected people back to our Boston parishes as they have in other places. But when people trickle or stream through the doors, I hope they will find inside the kind of living faith that makes them feel at home. That faith doesn't reside in a building, only in human hearts. When we meet those who come, I hope we'll be prepared to talk less about what the Church has done, and more about what God has done.
And, I hope too, that we'll understand that the whole point of this "program" is to send people -- us -- into the world with the light and life of Jesus Christ. So, get ready to share the Jesus you have known, and how he has been present in your life, to you and through you. Put aside any discomfort or embarrassment you might feel, and talk about him by name. But be ready, too, to listen to how this Lord of the harvest has gotten rather personal with the people he is calling, and drawing, now. Don't worry about trying to separate the wheat from the chaff. That, after all, isn't our concern. Just go out into the fields with the one thing -- the only thing -- that matters: Jesus, living and life giving, who calls the Church his own.
Jaymie Stuart Wolfe is a wife and mother of eight children, and a disciple of the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales. She is an inspirational author, speaker, musician and serves as an Associate Children's Editor at Pauline Books and Media.