Pittsburgh Catholic: Learn how to make friends for Jesus on your iPhone

April 22, 2014

The Pittsburgh Catholic
By: Helene Paharik

Pastoral letter uses modern technology to share ancient wisdom

In his fourth pastoral letter, “The Church Evangelizing!,” Bishop David Zubik instructs all members of the diocese to share in the work of evangelization by being a friend, being a friend of Jesus and making friends for Jesus.

Bishop Zubik echoes Pope Francis in stating that “evangelization is the church’s mission, not just of a few, but my, your, our mission.” Everyone in the church needs to do the work of telling the Good News. He reminds all of his readers that their witness is needed right where they are at any given moment: in their homes, in workplaces, in the supermarkets, in the gyms and on their neighborhood streets. Traditionally, a pastoral letter is a document addressed by a bishop to Catholic clergy, laity and all people of good will. Pastorals generally contain instruction, consolation or directions for behavior in particular circumstances. In this case, following the directive of Pope John Paul II in “Redemptoris Missio” for “new methods, ardor and expression” in evangelization, Bishop Zubik has updated his methods for a world that uses new media.

The Diocese of Pittsburgh has established a website, www.churchevangelizing.com, loaded with interactive multimedia material. A video on the pastoral letter has been created. An audio file of the bishop reading the pastoral letter can be downloaded and played on mobile devices. The diocese’s first-ever mobile app has been developed, featuring an e-reader of the pastoral letter with hyperlinks to evangelization resources. Social media advertising will be employed.

Bishop Zubik describes eight building blocks in “The Church Evangelizing!”: (1) practice hospitality; (2) know the faith; (3) speak up; (4) give correction; (5) be loyal; (6) stay in touch; (7) remember the poor; and (8) be encouraging. These eight activities are how we build friendships with and for Jesus.

The heart of the letter is Bishop Zubik’s description of evangelization as a relationship that is as beautiful and as life-giving as the deepest friendship.

The letter describes how Jesus made friends with the disciples: speaking their language, joining in their activities, sharing meals, taking long walks with them, being in their homes, listening to their worries, praying with them and meeting the deepest yearning in their hearts — intimacy with God. The letter notes that Jesus extended his friendship to everyone and directs us to do the same. “True friendship is inclusive. It doesn’t form a clique. It creates an ever-widening circle of friends.”

Evangelization, pure and simple, is the extension of the friendship with Jesus to others. “To be an evangelist is to be the face, the hands, the heart and the voice of Christ to those who long to hear a friendly voice and to see a friendly face,” the bishop writes.

Bishop Zubik illustrates his point by drawing from the history of the church. He recalls that when the earliest members of the church heard the Good News of Jesus, they behaved the same way as did the first disciples on the shores of the Sea of Galilee: they brought their friends around to get to know Jesus. Down through the ages, the bishop says the saints demonstrate how first to be a friend and then how to make friends for Jesus.

The necessity of prayer in evangelization is stressed. “We need to talk with Jesus regularly before we can introduce him to others.” Frequent prayer, daily Mass, reflecting on Scripture are suggestions for ways to grow in friendship with Jesus. Mary is described as a perfect example of an evangelist humbly open to the divine presence.

Reflection questions on each chapter of the pastoral letter have been designed for discussions around the kitchen table, in the office lunchroom or with pastoral councils and parish groups. Online discussions and public presentations will occur in the coming months.

This pastoral letter employs new methods in promoting the timeless message that all are invited to friendship with Jesus.

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