Welcome to my summer series, Preparing Hearts and Minds: 9 Simple Ways for Catechists to Cultivate a Living Faith. Today we look at the first strategy for tilling the soil of people’s hearts and minds:
Strategy #1: Point out that potential believers’ current “way” is broken or unsatisfactory and needs to be repaired or replaced.
In other words, we need to begin the faith formation journey by drawing attention to our human brokenness, and we proclaim a better way to be human: an alternative known as the reign of God. If we are to proclaim Jesus as Savior, it makes sense to focus on what he saves us from!
Advertisers get this point, which is why so many advertisements begin with a variation of the question, “Are you tired of…?” They know that if they have any hope of selling you something, they have to convince you of your need before offering a solution. Likewise, in our proclamation of the Gospel, if we hope to penetrate people’s hearts and minds and propose Jesus as Savior, we need to follow the lead of the Apostles and proclaim that our current reality is broken, we are the unfortunate heirs of that brokenness, and God has intervened, through his only Son, Jesus Christ, to offer us an alternate reality known as the reign of God—a better way of living and being human.
The truth is, too many people are walking around with narratives that are unhealthy, unfulfilling, and, dare I say, dangerous to their own well-being and the well-being of others. Some of these narratives tell us that we are worthless, ugly, fat, unreliable, unlovable, shameful, inferior, untalented, uninteresting, undeserving, or incapable of happiness. To make matters worse, we live in a culture whose narrative tells us that, in order to be happy, we need money, power, possessions, success, pleasure, control, popularity, conquest, prestige, and fame, just to name a few.
The Good News of Jesus Christ is that these false, misleading, damaged, and broken narratives can and must be changed! Jesus proclaims a new narrative: a narrative about a new reality called the reign of God in which we are
- rescued (from sin)
- restored (to our intimate relationship with the Father) and
- reassured (by a loving God who provides us with everything we need and is with us always).
Jesus’ proclamation of the Gospel begins with the word, “Repent!” which means to “change your mind.” To evangelize is to invite people to change their minds and reject false narratives in place of the saving narrative of Jesus Christ. It is to invite them to recognize how compacted our collective hearts and minds have become and to till the soil of their own lives in order to be capable of imagining new possibilities.
It is no coincidence that we begin our celebration of the Mass with the Penitential Act, in which we acknowledge our brokenness. It is this very brokenness that is the key to our salvation, for, without acknowledgement of our brokenness, we remain impenetrable to God’s grace; the soil of our hearts and minds remains compacted. When we embrace our brokenness, we become vulnerable, and it is through the very “cracks” in our being that the grace of God can and will enter. We must convince others that the message we are sharing—the Good News—is not just something nice—it is something we need! To proceed otherwise is to ignore the very reality of the human condition: to be human is to be imperfect.
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Be sure to check out my new book, Preparing Hearts and Minds: 9 Simple Ways for Catechists to Cultivate a Living Faith.