I’m glad that you’re here; that’s a phrase that should be heard in ecclesial communities throughout this or any land where humans dwell. And what does that mean? It means simply that your presence is a good; that life is better and richer with you in it; that because you are here, smiling is all the easier for me.
In many cultures grandparents are the ones who seemed to have mastered this kind of love; pinching cheeks and ruffling hair at the sight of the little people that resemble those they have given their lives for. Couples too, can be a witness to this kind of love, when from the first they really yearn for nothing more than the face of the other, to brighten a day that may or may not have been going in the right direction.
And notice that the truly affectionate person is neither caught up in what the other doesn’t know and can’t do, nor are they concerned with what the other might be able to do for them to relieve some burden or advance some agenda. And you have seen both of these (I am sure of it) in the parish you
call home. A man decides to come to the Church after who knows how long, and he is immediately sized up; ‘wouldn’t it be great,’ some say openly to others,’ if he were to help us in the upcoming program we are running.’ A woman tries to worship alongside her fellow Catholics, but after many years away it is obvious to all that she has forgotten many of the moves that accompany the liturgy of the Church, and in doing so has become quite distracting. “Hmm,’ say some quite openly, ‘it would have been better for
her to just stay home.’
Let’s be clear.
The heavenly banquet found in every Catholic Church is profoundly important and needs to be safeguarded; Catechesis and our programming where we attend to the intellectual inquiries and formation of those on the way, well that will always be present until we behold God’s face in all its simplicity and beauty.
But evangelization needs to be affectionate before it can be effective. It needs to say long before everything else, ‘I am glad that you are here.’ And while you probably shouldn’t pinch their cheeks and ruffle their hair, we must find a way to let them know that they are loved.
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