I have had an amazing week and will share with you my encounter will a real Catholic evangeliser. The Diocesan Council of Ministry with Young People (DCMYP) invited Fr. Rob Galea, a young priest who ministers in Victoria and in fact all over the world, to the diocese. Fr Rob led some school workshops, spoke at Pints with a Purpose and was the special guest at the first diocesan Praise and Worship night on Friday night. I had never met Fr. Rob before, or his guitarist Jason Giuliani, but had invited them to use our home as a base during their stay in Newcastle. I feel that home-grown hospitality is important for those who are comfortable with it and these two young men were great house mates for their short time with us.
So what was it about Fr. Rob that gave me my first real live encounter with an evangelist? I think it was his absolute belief in God as his saviour, as revealed through Jesus Christ and then his capacity to relay that message for all who have ears to hear. He has the capacity to speak God’s word as part of his own story. He eventually came to a relationship with God through prayer and he really desires this for other young people as well as all people. He is amazingly generous with his time and talents, and his charismatic way draws people to him. He is motivated by his priesthood and is delivering God’s word all around the world.
Some may see him as a ‘rock star priest’ and may judge him accordingly, but I met a very gifted and delightful man who genuinely works on his relationship with God and with people. During his two days with us, he spoke with 2000 young people, which adds to the 200,000 he has spoken to around the globe in the past twelve months. He is a man of the younger generation, using social media to outreach to those whom he meets. By Friday night, he had received 800 Instagrams from young people around our diocese. He took the social media communication lead from the late Bishop Joe Grech and he uses the many IT tools to connect with thousands of young people from around the globe. He is a modern day evangeliser, who not only connects face to face and by using technology, but uses his musical talents to connect with them, and with our God. His music, song writing and joy in performing (praying) are inspiring and feed the soul with delight.
Jason, his guitarist, also a wonderful human being, is married, has a little girl and another baby on the way, teaches and also reaches out to young people and the young of heart. He is proud of his Italian heritage, as Fr. Rob is proud of his Maltese origins. It was a real treat to watch and see him play his guitar and to witness to his generosity of spirit. A palpable joy was within both Rob and Jason as they shared their gifts, and our home with us.
About 200 came along to our Praise and Worship night. Not only did Fr. Rob and Jason play but our own Spirit and Truth band performed many songs with us, inviting us to explore a relationship with the one who created us. I feel a deep sense of pride for what was achieved in our diocese on Friday night. Young and old joined into the night of music, action, reflection and engagement with our good and loving God.
We are truly blessed and I feel like I am on the mountain with Peter, James and John, seeing Jesus being transfigured and transformed. Let us rejoice in these holy mountain moments and thank God. Thanks for Fr. Rob, Jason, our Spirit and Truth Group, the DCMYP and their families along with several people from the Catholic Schools and the Catholic Schools Office as well as Bishop Bill, who is full of encouragement for our young people exploring their faith. I don’t want to leave this mountain place. I feel as if I have been in the presence of the holy ones who are both divine and human.
During this past week I met a different kind of evangeliser in the form of Francis Sullivan who heads the Catholic Church’s Truth Justice and Healing Council (TJHC). I refer to him as an evangeliser because he is not frightened by our need as Church to face and name our shameful truth about historic abuses, while seeking ways to work towards a different future. He speaks with honesty, integrity, humility, passion and frankness, which is hard-hitting, and yet he does this from a position of faith and compassion. He, along with the other members of the TJHC, is seeking to be real in discovering what the Jesus movement is in this ‘post-abuse’ church of ours. He said several times we need to get with the program of trust, justice and healing.
And so, while preparing this message, I recalled a section of Pope Francis’ Evangelli Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), where he speaks about evangelisation. I love this section of his Exhortation, and I invite you to consider whether you are an evangeliser or called to be one. These two paragraphs come from a section with the title - The Church’s Missionary Transformation:
19. Evangelization takes place in obedience to the missionary mandate of Jesus: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Mt 28:19-20). In these verses we see how the risen Christ sent his followers to preach the Gospel in every time and place, so that faith in him might spread to every corner of the earth.
24. The Church which “goes forth” is a community of missionary disciples who take the first step, who are involved and supportive, who bear fruit and rejoice. An evangelizing community knows that the Lord has taken the initiative, he has loved us first (cf. 1 Jn 4:19), and therefore we can move forward, boldly take the initiative, go out to others, seek those who have fallen away, stand at the crossroads and welcome the outcast. Such a community has an endless desire to show mercy, the fruit of its own experience of the power of the Father’s infinite mercy. Let us try a little harder to take the first step and to become involved. Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. The Lord gets involved and he involves his own, as he kneels to wash their feet. He tells his disciples: “You will be blessed if you do this” (Jn 13:17). An evangelizing community gets involved by word and deed in people’s daily lives; it bridges distances, it is willing to abase itself if necessary, and it embraces human life, touching the suffering flesh of Christ in others. Evangelizers thus take on the “smell of the sheep” and the sheep are willing to hear their voice. An evangelizing community is also supportive, standing by people at every step of the way, no matter how difficult or lengthy this may prove to be. It is familiar with patient expectation and apostolic endurance. Evangelization consists mostly of patience and disregard for constraints of time. Faithful to the Lord’s gift, it also bears fruit. An evangelizing community is always concerned with fruit, because the Lord wants her to be fruitful. It cares for the grain and does not grow impatient at the weeds. The sower, when he sees weeds sprouting among the grain does not grumble or overreact. He or she finds a way to let the word take flesh in a particular situation and bear fruits of new life, however imperfect or incomplete these may appear. The disciple is ready to put his or her whole life on the line, even to accepting martyrdom, in bearing witness to Jesus Christ, yet the goal is not to make enemies but to see God’s word accepted and its capacity for liberation and renewal revealed. Finally an evangelizing community is filled with joy; it knows how to rejoice always. It celebrates every small victory, every step forward in the work of evangelization. Evangelization with joy becomes beauty in the liturgy, as part of our daily concern to spread goodness. The Church evangelizes and is herself evangelized through the beauty of the liturgy, which is both a celebration of the task of evangelization and the source of her renewed self-giving.
And so I leave you with the wonder of becoming an evangeliser, or at least identifying those around you who are, and encouraging them to continue to grow their gifts for the goodness of the whole human race. Abraham learnt that God’s reward is great if we but put our faith in God.
Enjoy a faith-filled week.