I sometimes wonder why I don’t have more faith. I bet you sometimes wonder the same thing about yourself. If only my faith was stronger, I think, what amazing things I could do for the Lord. Right!
It seems the apostles were sharing the same thought in Sunday’s Gospel (Luke 17:5-10). And in a sense, that was good. After all, they realized that they had a long way to go to become good and faithful servants, even after spending more than a year following and supporting the Lord’s public ministry. They approached Jesus and asked that He increase their faith.
But reflect on how Jesus replied to them. Imagine Him smiling as he said that the faith they had was a gift from Him and that if they but embraced and accepted that gift, they would do mighty works for the Kingdom. All of us Catholics have received the same gift of faith from Jesus. Do we realize what a treasure it is? If we did, there would be no power that could prevent us from sharing it with everyone we encounter in this life, both family and stranger.
St. Paul, writing to St. Timothy, a Catholic bishop he had appointed and consecrated, reminded him of this responsibility that comes with faith. Each of us shares in this gift and responsibility by virtue of our baptism. He told Timothy, and he tells us, do not ever be ashamed of the gospel you believe in and testify to. (2 Timothy 1:6-14)
Let me ask a question… What is the largest religious body in the United States? It is the Catholic Church. More than 72 million people identify themselves as Catholics. Some estimates based on polling data indicate that only about 35 million of those Catholics attend Mass on a “somewhat” regular basis. And that number falls to about 25 million who attend Mass weekly or more frequently. The next largest group of self-identified non-Catholic Christians in the United States is the Southern Baptist Convention who number about 17 million according to the latest statistics available (I have seen some estimates that have that number above 20 million). The next largest group is fewer than those with no religion at all… about 13 million who indicate they follow no religion. Any way you slice it, the second largest religious group in America is that of non-practicing Catholics who either do not practice any faith or who have joined other, non-Catholic religious groups… maybe 37 million or higher.
Is there someone in your family who has stopped practicing their Catholic faith? Do you know friends and family members that are practicing another faith or maybe no faith at all? What can we do to share the love and grace of Jesus Christ and His Catholic Church with them?
The Atlanta Archdiocese is launching an evangelistic outreach to invite Catholics to come home will entail a campaign to saturate the airwaves of both network and cable TV with the powerful ads that have demonstrated their effectiveness. The Catholic Church in Georgia is not the first Catholic Church to use these messages. This campaign is powerful and it works. For example, the Catholics Come Home campaign was run by the diocese of Phoenix, a diocese of 700,000 members, which is similar in size to the Archdiocese of Atlanta. Eighteen months after running these ads, more than 92,000 Catholics had returned to Mass and the practice of their faith.
These ads will begin running here in December of this year during Advent as we prepare for the coming of the Christ-child. Imagine the positive, spiritual impact on our local Church were more than 100,000 local Catholics to return to the active practice of their faith. Imagine the return of your own family members.
Take a look at CatholicsComeHome.org, the organization that produces these media messages. You can learn how to invite your friends, neighbors and family members back to the Catholic Church. I encourage you view their ads and support their work. And if your diocese has not yet begun such an effort, introduce your bishop to them.