“I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!" (Lk 12:49)
Is your heart on fire with God’s burning love? If you desire a deeper relationship with God, a meaningful prayer life, and greater faith but struggle with creating the time or disciplined habits necessary for an on-fire spiritual life, what can you do?
"Evangelization takes place when people see how much we are in love with Jesus," said Father Gunn, as the young adults listened intently at their tables. "We are called to become the Word of God in human form - like Christ - and to witness the Gospel life with the possibility that other people might embrace the faith."
Therefore Catholics must preach through acts of service, healing, compassion and forgiveness - all while never giving off a hint of self-righteousness. We must answer Jesus' challenge to care for the poor around the world, Father Gunn said.
"We need to witness more by who we are, not by what we say," Father Gunn said. "St. Francis of Assisi advised followers, 'Preach. When necessary, use words.'"
When we do use words, we Catholics need to proclaim the Gospel boldly and without compromise of its core principles. We must be willing to identify with our faith and be courageous in educating others about the Gospel, Church teaching and the sacraments, most importantly, the Eucharist - all of which aid us in deepening our spirituality, he said.
Our Catholic faith also helps us sort out life's moral dilemmas. Therefore, we can't cower from talking about morality and the Church's call for all people to reach for high ideals that run counter to the 'bad values' regularly practiced in the world - among them abortion, war, materialism and non-marital sex, Father Gunn said.
Yet Catholics often find it difficult to speak openly about their faith and values in an age when young people avoid such conversations as not to offend anyone. But the need for conversations about Catholicism has reached a critical point today, when most young people don't identify with the faith, largely because they weren't raised in practicing families. So many young Catholics leave the Church; many of them, who have children don't attend Mass, the priest said.
"When young people don't find a spiritual benefit [to Catholicism], they go somewhere else," Father Gunn said.
Before we start preaching, we Catholics first need allow Jesus to light the fire of faith in our hearts. We need to strengthen our relationship with Christ through prayer; participation in the sacraments, especially the Eucharist; and ongoing study of the Gospel. We can develop that stronger relationship with Christ by getting more involved in the spiritual, service and social aspects of our parishes, which are called on to cultivate an atmosphere of welcome and openness in the spirit of the Second Vatican Council, Father Gunn said.
"The Holy Spirit is leading us now to seize the opportunity to invite other people our journey in the Catholic faith," Father Gunn told the gathering young adults, taking in the priest's words that night without public comment. "God is waiting to pass on to other people His saving power," the friar told them.