NO CRYING AT MY FUNERAL

NO CRYING AT MY FUNERAL

Saturday, December 23, 2006

ELECTRONIC EVANGELIZATION, WHO? ME? U BET!

ELECTRONIC EVANGELIZATION, WHO? ME? U BET!Oh, no, not another program! We have gone from the Christophers, to Bishop Sheen, to the Cursillo, the Catholic Family Movement, EWTN and now it is Parishworld.net. What is next? I was in a conversation with a very dedicated and very
spiritual person just this morning who could not and would not agree with me that there is such a thing as effective electronic evangelization.
Now come on, in the age of "MySpace.com" is there still someone out there who believes that electronic evangelization is not effective? Christians of all stripes and colors have been struggling for years to come out with powerfully
focused electronic, mass media formats to carry the message of Christ across the airwaves and into the hearts of His people. I was teaching a class the other night when I turned away from the white enamel board for a moment and when I
turned back, my scribbling was still on it. I wailed in pain and sorrow as I tremulously said, "My Guardian Angel has let me down." An older person in the group reminded me gently that I am not bishop Fulton J. Sheen. Now believe me,
everyone in the room laughed. I quickly took an on-the-spot poll, ready to assign a margin of error for safety's sake. But, what is this? Everyone knows who Bishop Sheen was? It's unanimous? Yes! Zowieeee! The crimson caped wonder
lives on! The 35 year-old "Whiz-Kid" even knew who Bishop Sheen was. Come to think of it, how many of you know what a "Whiz-Kid" is? Was?
Without daring to make any comparisons here, I can tell you honestly that I have yet to discover a soul in the classes that I teach in my parish who does not know EWTN. Most know Mother Angelica. No, no, not only because of her spat
with Archbishop Mahony. They actually like her and the other "stars" who appear regularly on the set.
Now that is television. What about the rest of us poor souls toiling in the vast and anonymous universe of the Internet? Who knows us? Who is finding God through our bleeding-finger rants? We don't know. In fact, as the phrase goes,
"Only God knows." It's a very strange pulpit that we occupy. That's what mystified my matutinal interlocutor. (No, I'm not going to revise that) Now don't go letting your brain start trying to convince you that this is a hick from
the sticks. Nope. This is a well-educated M.A. from one of the finest of fine universities owned, operated and managed by God's own army, the Society of Jesus. Oh, I nearly forgot, that is an M.A. in Catechetics! No electronics
there, my friend. Face-to-face, personal follow-up, written test, discernment for conversion. None of this anonymous hit-and-run stuff for me, my friend.
I know that you all have had discussions similar to this. It starts one day and then stops because other events come to take your time. You have to pay attention to them and so you leave the subject thinking that you'll never have to
worry about it again. But then, the very next day, on the 45 minute drive to the airport with your opinion ping pong challenger in the passenger's seat, along comes the famous, "maybe I did not explain myself as well as I could have
yesterday" flip of the coin for first serve rights for the next 30 minutes. Hey, this is fun! Go for it!
I think that the essence of evangelization is the deep knowledge that the teacher (use the word that you prefer) comes to acquire of the hearer of the message. Evamgelization is not a hit-and-run excercise. Evangelization is the
invitation to become a disciple. Now we all know that discipleship is a very intimate relationship between the teacher and the disciple. This relationship cannot be developed and nurtured electronically. The Word has to be preached
and taught eye-ball to eye-ball, heart to heart. So there!
Now you have to know that I am driving 70 MPH and she is slamming me 90MPH. You've already guessed that we are far from being eye-ball to eye-ball. The only protection that I have is that the passenger seat is on the side that only
hears 75%. (Wife-guard) But I have to say that I heard everything that this itinerant missionary had to say. But speaking of itinerant missionaries, oh yeah, there's my opening... my serve, now...
You know, says I, you are calling to mind a rather persistent and pernicious reality. I was once a "wandering Aramean" missionary, going from parish to parish. I would throw the word of God at people morning noon and night for one or
two weeks. Some period back in time I would talk to the males for one week and to the females for the second week. One day would be velvet gloves and dulcet tones and the other day would be hell-fire and brimstone, Sodom and Gomorrah,
you're all going to hell except me. Once I was finished bringing them all back to the confessional (Catholics don't have altar calls), I would count the number of "Father, it has been 10 years + since my last confession" and either pat
myself on the back for a win or shake my head in defeat. But I didn't follow anything up. I didn't get to know anyone. The follow-up was the pastor's job. After all, he was the one who had paid me for the job, right?
Then I told her about you people. If I say something that lights your fire, PRO or CON, you jump on your keyboard and say, (well, what came to mind there is not appropriate), but you say it and make my email server smoke, either incense
or burnt fish. I get back to you, sweet as can be, of course, and as it turns out, I get to know you, to some degree. I may even get to know you so well that I won't hit the "delete" button as though you live in Ethiopia or something
like that. Now, hey, that's follow-up, right? Top that off with my next "gotcha!". I ask, "when's the last time you gave 50,000 people the chance to attack you on a Biblical or Catechetical statement?" Now, isn't that
evangelization?
Now, the dimishing distance to the intended destination is on my side (full disclosure time). She says, "I have to ask permission to change the subject. I want to continue this discussion, but there is something very important that I
have to ask." I assure you, she did have a serious concern and we only had about 7 or 8 minutes left before reaching our destination. I also assure you that she has the URL and she knows how to find me. This discussion is not over.
She is reading this now, right alongside you and she is saying, "I didn't say that. Let me rattle his cheap, old fashioned monitor with my side of the story."
This is your chance to have some input to the debate. I still have a statement or two in store, but I think we could enjoy ourselves here by helping one another understand the true depth of electronic evangelization. The good thing
about it is that we will get to know one another electronically along the way. Then when we get to heaven I guarantee that we will recognize one another too. Hey, with a deal like that, you had better heed my ban on crying at my
funeral.
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