Near where I live is a family with four young children. One day they were playing in their backyard when I arrived home. The little girl, five years old, saw me and came running over. She said, "Hey! Aren't you the Church guy?" "Well," I said, "Yes, I guess I am." She looked at me again and said, "Then why aren't you in Church?"
I've thought about that question a lot since then, because it finds an echo in the questions or comments that we often hear directed at "Church people." It will frequently take the form: "Why don't you keep your faith "in Church," which is to say, faith and its insights should have no place in public discourse and are best kept confined within Church walls, an entirely private affair.
For us "Church people", we know this is impossible. Not because we seek to impose our belief on anyone, as is mistakenly (and frequently) charged against us. We do not impose; we propose. And what we have to propose is something extraordinarily beautiful: the message of hope, which is the Gospel.
The urgency of the need to share this message is clear. All around us we see many manifestations of a serious crisis besetting humanity, namely, a lack of hope. I think of young children speaking to me of depression in their lives or troubling their friends. In Canada the news last week was full of reports of a growing use of the narcotic fentanyl, and this not long after reports of Health Canada giving permission for the use of the so-called "abortion pill." At the current time in our country we are pondering the impact of the Supreme Court decision in February allowing physician assisted suicide and euthanasia. Globally we see heartrending images of refugees from the Middle East and Africa risking - and losing - their lives as they flee across the Mediterranean Sea seeking a better life. These examples can be multiplied. Together they give evidence of a lack of hope.
This gives rise to immense sadness in our hearts because we know it need not be this way. There is a reason for real hope. That reason is the sure love of God, made manifest and active in Jesus Christ. This conviction impels us not to keep our hope-giving message to ourselves, not to confine it within Church walls, but to announce it with confidence and joy.
Over the last few days I had the wonderful privilege and blessing of being at two events, in which the participants made clear their desire and readiness to share with others the beauty of the faith. The first was the annual pilgrimage to a Marian shrine at Skaro within the Archdiocese of Edmonton. The second was a festival for young adults called One Rock, held within, and hosted by, the Diocese of Calgary. At each, enthusiasm for the faith was palpable. I am edified and encouraged by the love for the Gospel beautifully on display among the people who gathered for these celebrations of the faith.
May we each find ways, in our variety of circumstances, to be "Church people" who do not keep the faith "in Church", but willingly share it with others as the reason for hope.