What camping adventure worth its name wouldn’t include a bonfire? I think about miles of hot dogs and s’mores that were roasted not to mention the number of stories that were told around roaring campfires that I have attended throughout the years. Those memories are embedded in my mind along with the people who were with me. The common denominator that brought these memories together was the bonfire itself. What was the catalyst that ignited wood, kindling and fuel into a roaring flame? It was the intentional action of someone who created a spark that took all these random materials and caused a radical change to take place: a bonfire.
Think about the bonfire as your local parish or our diocesan Church.
- Some of us are the pieces of wood. There are large pieces that will be used to form the outside of the structure while the smaller pieces are piled up inside. Some of the wood may be wet or have moss growing on it. For whatever reason each piece of wood was brought to this place and for a specific purpose.
- Some of us are kindling. When compared to the larger pieces of wood, it doesn’t seem like we measure up. Most of the time kindling is something that seems disposable: paper towels, an old newspaper or magazine, or dry brittle twigs. From the perspective of the kindling elements, life among the larger pieces of wood may seem intimidating.
- Some of us are fuel. This material is used to produce heat or power. Unlike the other materials that can be used in multiple ways, there are few ways to use fuel. Furthermore, for the heat or power to be produced requires some action beyond its ability.
- For the bonfire that is the Church to become what it was created to be requires the spark of faith given to it by the Holy Spirit. For the pyre to become a bonfire requires the action of the one who creates the spark. For us to continually be able to spread the Gospel requires that we provide the Holy Spirit good material to fan our spark of faith into a large flame.
Sometimes we talk ourselves out of becoming an evangelist because we think we are too small, our faith isn’t strong enough, or we are not ordained, But evangelization doesn’t come from us, it comes from Jesus. Joe Paprocki and Julianne Stanz write in their book The Catechist’s Backpack, “The Good News we bring to the world when we evangelize is not only the message of Jesus Christ but the person of Jesus Christ, who desires a personal relationship with each one of us” (page 66).
When I was a baby youth minister I had a volunteer who didn’t think she was qualified to do anything else but welcome teens to our programming. Although she was every bit as qualified to lead programming, she was outstanding at welcoming people into youth ministry and encouraging those who felt they weren’t faithful enough to give it a try. Pope Francis would call her an “agent of evangelization.” In Joy of the Gospel Pope Francis writes, “All the baptized, whatever their position in the Church or their level of instruction in the faith, are agents of evangelization, and it would be insufficient to envisage a plan of evangelization to be carried out by professionals while the rest of the faithful would simply be passive recipients. The new evangelization calls for personal involvement on the part of each of the baptized. Every Christian is challenged, here and now, to be actively engaged in evangelization; indeed, anyone who has truly experienced God’s saving love does not need much time or lengthy training to go out and proclaim that love” (paragraph #120).
Families today more than ever need to be evangelized by you and I that Christ’s Gospel has much to offer them as spouses along with their children. Isn’t there somebody today that you and I will encounter that is in need of Christ’s mercy? Having the opportunity to be open to this and to share the love that God has shown us is what it means to be someone on mission. The real question for each of us is if we are open to offering the materials God has given so that He can fan the spark of faith into a large bonfire? Below is one of my favorite parts of the movie Prince of Egypt about another person who wasn’t sure he had what it took to be on mission. Look at what God accomplished through him.
Reflection written by John Gaffney, Diocesan Director for Evangelization & Catechesis.
Julianne Stanz will present a workshop for catechetical leaders in the Diocese of Des Moines on March 3, 2016.