One aspect of evangelization that takes on special meaning in this Jubilee Year of Mercy is compassionate outreach. The Church not only opens its doors as a sign of welcome, but also goes out to meet those who are apprehensive; those who are marginalized; those who feel rejected; those who are disabled; and those whom society does not value. The Good News must be shared, not only with those who come through the doors of the Church, but also proclaimed outside the church proper where we can encounter those who are alienated.
In one of the parables of mercy, the Prodigal Son, the father, out of an abundance of compassion, leaves his house on two occasions to go out and meet his wayward children. First, before the younger son, who has squandered his inheritance and dejectedly returns home to seek forgiveness, reaches his former residence, the loving father leaves his house to go out to welcome his son home and announce a celebration. It is an action taken by a compassionate father. When the welcome home party has commenced, the older son refuses to enter the house to participate in the festivities, the father again leaves his house and goes to meet him seeking reconciliation. In both instances, the father exhibits the loving compassion that goes beyond oneself and seeks to meet the needs of the one who is estranged.
Like the compassionate father in the parable, like our merciful God, the Church’s mission to evangelize reaches out in compassionate love, not only extending an invitation to enter through its doors to receive the Good News, but also going out to meet people where they are and extend a loving message of welcome and inclusion. Like Jesus, the Son of man who came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10), the Church welcomes those who enters its doors during the Year of Mercy and seeks to encounter those who hesitate to approach its doors through compassionate outreach.
How might your parish “go out” to encounter and invite those who would never – or could never – come to us on their own?