Should a priest attract a people?
Not really. Instead, following the example of Christ, he should provide the best possible service to those whom the Father draws. Therefore, he should “attract” mainly truth and love. And then to lead those whom these have attracted. Jesus himself certainly attracted many, thousands of them. But He also repelled many, and they abandoned Him for the “hard talk” of truth; they wanted to stone Him, kill Him, and eventually. When He left the earth, only one hundred and twenty of those thousands remained people. And He says: “No one can come to Me unless the Father draws him, who sent me. All that the Father gives me will come to me. And to him who comes to me, I will not cast him away, for I did not come down from heaven to fulfill my will, but the will of him that sent me. And the will of him that sent me is that I should lose nothing of what he has given me, but that I should raise all things on the last day” (Jn 6:44, 37-39).
Likewise, the apostles. They did not try to please people or attract people. Place instead, they bore witness to the Truth, which attracted some, some repelled, as Paul says, “But we preach Christ crucified, for
to the Jews an offense, to the Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are called, so the Jews to the called, both Greeks and Gentiles, Christ, the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor 1:23-24). Thus, those who have been drawn not by them but by the Truth, the Father Himself, are then shown the way and give service, bringing them what they were already seeking, only they were not finding it and needed to learn how to find it themselves. Again, Paul writes: “I testify that I am clean from the blood of all, for I have not departed without preaching to you the word of God, the whole will of God” (Acts 20:26-27). And with him also, it was still true what was true with Jesus, “They believed all who were foreordained to eternal life believed” (Acts 13:48).
Evangelization is thus a ministry in which people who seek truth and goodness and desire them, and “by perseverance in good works seek glory, honor, and immortality” (Rom 2:7); we show them the Way they seek the Truth for which they desire, and the Life they crave – Jesus Christ, so that they may go, no longer unquestioningly and receive the Holy Spirit and already possess the Life for which they are destined and to which they have long been drawn by the Father within. This is why neither evangelization nor pastoral care can degenerate into “drawing people” into the Church! If this were to happen, the Church would become a populist and end. The Church must bear clear witness to the Truth and must at the same time provide a clear and compelling service – showing the Way, teaching
and training, and providing the sacraments – to those who are not drawn to this Truth by some “tricks” designed to “draw people” but by the Father Himself. And to remember Christ Himself, to whom, when His disciples “heard Him, many said: “That’s a hard saying! Who can listen to it?!” … then many of his disciples forsook him and walked no more with him. Jesus said to the Twelve: “You also want to leave?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. And we have believed and known that thou art God’s Holy One.” Jesus answered them: “Did I not choose you twelve? And one of you is the devil” (Jn 6:60, 66-70).
It doesn’t matter the number. Five thousand men, plus women and children in one day, twelve men, including one traitor, the next day – does it matter? The number is predetermined. Many or few, the Father will draw all who are predestined to Life. But the Church must be where they can be removed this way. Not a populist NGO trying to attract people, but the Church, clearly witnessing the Truth, proclaiming “nothing else but Jesus Christ, and he crucified” (1 Cor, 2) and bestowing in the sacraments the Holy Spirit, the Life of God, and the power of God for those who have been drawn to it and desire it. And, of course, know-how and training in living and growing in this gift!
And the priest, bishop, evangelizer, or animator himself must first be like this drawn by the Father! “For out of the fullness of the heart, the mouth speaks. A good man brings forth out of a good treasure good things, and an evil man out of an evil treasure evil things” (Mt. 12, 34-35). And let’s not worry so much about those numbers. It just so happens that people go away when we try to attract and please people. They don’t need another worldly institution, and a mall or a water park is better than such a secular “church.” But if we preach the plain, clear truth in the power of the Spirit, then the Father Himself will bring all who are to be carried, just as in that day of Pentecost, when “when they heard it, pain pierced their hearts, and they told Peter and the rest of the apostles, “What shall we do, brethren?” Peter said to them: “Do repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of for the baptism of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. … They received his word and were baptized, and that day about three thousand souls were added” (Acts 2:37-38, 41).
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