After Mass on Friday, I sat down with one of my runners from “back in the day,” Tanelle Berard. You might remember Tanelle coming to our church and speaking with us about her mission to evangelize at various college campus’s in the country. Tanelle is married now and she and her husband are expecting their first child at the end of September.
Tanelle, her husband and I talked after Mass about many things. We talked about evangelization and young people. We talked about younger people and appealing to them about faith and life in the Church. We agreed that this wasn’t anything new, it has been a challenge for religions since the beginning of human history. How to engage people, the young and the old in a way that they are receptive to?
These past two weekends we have heard certain parables that Jesus used to engage the people of his time. Jesus faced the same issues the Church faces today, “how do we engage, teach and evangelize to the people of our age, in a way that is appealing and informative. “
Jesus solved this problem by using parables that he knew the people that he was speaking with would find somewhat interesting. Once he had them interested, he used the story to make a point about the Kingdom of Heaven. Here is the genius and the answer to the question asked above, “How to engage people, the young and the old in a way that they are receptive to?” In other words, the way to engage people about things of the Church is to use Jesus’ technique of figuring out a way to talk with the people of our age in a way that is effective and convincing.
Tanelle and I talked about the ways people receive information and process that information, the popularity of music, etc. I think Jesus, if he were here today, would try and figure out a way to speak to the people of this age in a way that fits with the way people communicate today. I think his parables would sound much different and he would use examples and symbols that people could relate to in this age.
It is the ongoing challenge of preaching the Gospel. The manner which the Gospel is proclaimed needs to evolve and change in order for the people of a particular time to find it attractive, meaningful and effective. Too often we complain and criticize the culture at hand. We often complain about social media and other trends of the times. We think somehow that the issues of our day are somehow a unique phenomenon to our world today. I think the challenges we face today with social media are similar to the complaints our parents had about television and music, and the complaints of their parents about dancing and music, on and on to the beginning of time. I suspect parents of prehistoric times were threatened and complained about those terrible kids and their cave drawings and those awful people using that crazy thing called “the lever.” I’m sure they thought the world was coming to an end too.
The point is, just as Jesus communicated and preached the Gospel back in his time using ways that were effective then, we too need to proclaim the Gospel in ways that are effective in our time.
Rev. James Kirby