Breaking open the diocesan Pastoral Plan: “Proclaim Christ and God’s Kingdom Today”
By Kiply Lukan Yaworski, Catholic Saskatoon News
It is time for Catholics to “get into the game” and actively proclaim the gospel as missionary disciples, Pete Burak of Renewal Ministries told a crowd gathered Nov. 7 at the Cathedral of the Holy Family in Saskatoon.
Too often Catholics are content to work on growing in faith, being fed, reading and studying, he said. But there is a universal call to mission as well as to holiness, Burak stressed, emphasizing the need to both “grow and go.”
“We need to give it away… No believer is dispensed from this responsibility.”
Burak’s presentation at the diocesan event in Saskatoon followed his keynote presentations at a diocesan Priests’ Study Days earlier in the week at Elkridge, SK.
At both gatherings, the director of “i.d.9:16” – an evangelization initiative aimed at forming intentional disciples of Jesus Christ – was asked by Bishop Mark Hagemoen to speak on the new diocesan Pastoral Plan: “To proclaim Christ and the Kingdom of God Today.”
If this diocesan plan is actively lived out, “the kingdom will be built, the culture will be changed, the Church will be different,” Burak asserted, urging his listeners to trust in the Spirit and “do what He wants you to do… actually go out and make disciples.”
When we meet Jesus and fall in love with him, we must also find the motivation in that great treasure “to open our mouths and share him,” Burak said. “We can be very, very slow to check in, and very, very fast to check out,” he noted. “We seem to be perpetually waiting to be ready to enter into mission.”
“But what our Church needs right now is for people to get into the game. The mission of the Church is not for an elite few,” Burak stressed, describing the “two legs” of Christian life as “to grow and to go.”
“The more we grow, the more we give it away.”
Being a disciple “starts with the belief and the decision that Jesus is the Lord of our life. Have I met the Lord? Have I heard the Lord? Have I answered the Lord?” he challenged, saying first comes the “who and why” and then the “what and how.”
Burak quoted Pope Francis in Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel) #27: “I dream of a ‘missionary option,’ that is, a missionary impulse capable of transforming everything, so that the Church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channeled for the evangelization of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation.”
To help in modelling one’s life on that missionary impulse, Burak then offered five practical tips when proclaiming Christ to others:
1. Pray, pray, pray, pray, pray… Burak stressed that “we cannot give away what we don’t have,” and emphasized the profound need to have a deep relationship with God, or our evangelization efforts will be rejected as hypocrisy. He urged his listeners to engage in specific, intentional prayer, and then get ready to “see God move.”
2. Ask questions (and listen) before starting to share your faith… Burak noted that when a person challenges faith, often there is a deeper wound that is not readily apparent. Rather than jumping in quickly to refute or to defend or share our faith, there is a need to slow down, to ask questions, and to really listen to that person’s experience, waiting to speak until they are ready to hear from you.
3. Lean in to suffering … Living as a missionary disciple means living with the love and concern of Jesus Christ for others, Burak stressed. There is a need to reach out, to stay with those who are suffering, to demonstrate love and caring in the midst of difficult situations — loneliness, sickness, depression, addiction, fear — “to sit with them in all that nastiness… so we can lead them out of it.”
4. Share your own story… Burak emphasized that “the best arrow in your quiver” is your own testimony, your own personal experience of Jesus Christ and the treasure you have in Christ, speaking not just from the head, but most of all from the heart.
5. Rely on the Holy Spirit and make room for the Holy Spirit… “There is no evangelization, there is no making of disciples, without the Holy Spirit,” Burak said, urging his listeners to trust, talk about Jesus, and then “leave room” and see how God will act.
The evening concluded with words of appreciation from Bishop Mark Hagemoen. “The most important thing that the Church does is proclaim Christ and proclaim the Kingdom of God,” he said. “Everything else is in addition.”