Now Baxter is older and more settled. When he sits on the window sill, I have no worries that he will try to get out. He is so content and satisfied with the comforts of his indoor life that he never tries to escape to greener pastures. In fact, when I open a door to get the mail or newspaper, he looks out for a second and turns and runs to the safe haunts of one of his favorite spots. Baxter has become a settled homebody. He is uninterested in engaging the world beyond his window. He is satisfied with watching it, commenting about it and then lying down for a nap.
Have we become like Baxter in the way we live our faith? We are comfortable with our daily and weekly routines, with the people we see in church, with the practices and understanding we learned as children, and we arent concerned for whats going on beyond our tested boundaries. Many people today are looking for God but dont know where to turn or how to go about it. Many others used to be part of our Catholic community but no longer practice their faith. Some have been driven away from us by scandals, hurts or mistakes in the past. Others have just drifted away as adult responsibilities and mature understanding of what life entails outgrew an immature notion of God and His ways. They didnt reject the faith. It just got crowded out by other activitiesand interests which seem more vital and worthwhile.
These people are outside our doors and windows. Can we leave the comfort and security of our Church pews and meet them where they are? Can we ask them what they are looking for from the Church without prejudging them for their answer? Can we invite them to come and see the richness of our liturgy and worship without condemning them for their absence in the past? Can we admit that we all need to grow in our understanding and personal commitment as disciples of the Lord Jesus and abandon our self-righteous attitude of being Good Catholics? Can we go to those who are different from ourselves-- the un-churched, other Christian denominations, our Jewish forebearswith genuine interest to understand their point of view? Can we listen to the poor and learn what they face each day so that we might have true empathy for their situation?
Reaching out to others where they are can be a scary adventure. We step beyond our comfort zone to the stranger with different experiences and different ideas and ways than ours. These encounters cause us to reflect on ourselves, to deepen our understanding of who we are and why we do what we do in Gods name. In the process, we discover a new vitality that can bring energy and commitment to our practice of the faith. We call this the Holy Spirit. Gods Spirit is revealed in encountering the other and discovering a brother or sister in the Lord. This is the heart of the New Evangelization Pope Francis is calling us to take up.
Once in a while, Baxter still gets excited about what he sees outside. Then the spark of the kitten reappears in him. God wants to ignite the spark of the original Spirit of Jesus in us again, so that new life might come to our faith and our Church formed in the Spirit. But it wont happen as long as we stay inside ourselves -- comfortable, secure and alone.
Venture forth to those people God is leading us to welcome, invite, meet and understand, and rediscover the spark of the Spirit we received in Baptism. It will revitalize our faith and our Church.