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THE FIRST GOAL OF THE U.S. BISHOPS' Pastoral Plan for Evangelization is "to bring about in all Catholics ... an enthusiasm for their faith." What are some of the things we get enthusiastic about? A newfound friend? A new baby? Our favorite restaurant or football team? But, faith? Why not?

Father Rich White, a Claretian missionary in Guatemala, occasionally varies the format of the Nicene Creed at Mass. Instead of having the entire assembly just rattle through the Creed, he reads it section by section, asking the people to respond "Wow!" to each section.

"We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth." Wow!

Maybe a little tacky, but it gets across a good point. It is quite a reason for enthusiasm to believe in a God. Think of the many people who don't. Think of what your life would be like if you didn't. It's even more amazing to believe that this God's love overflows in creating our wonderful world: the sunrises and sunsets, the planets and stars that we can't even begin to number, the soaring mountains and bottomless seas, the beauties and intricacies of the human body.

And what a Wow! it is to believe that this almighty, creating God is our Father, or in the terms of the theologian Rosemary Ruether, the great maternal womb. "Even if a mother could forget the child of her womb, I will never forget you," says the God in whom we believe. And the awe continues as we express our faith that the Son of our Mother/Father God came and lived among us, suffered, died, and rose to save us. He lowered himself to live like us so he could raise us to live like him. Jesus wows us further by remaining with us, through his Holy Spirit, even beyond his death. That Spirit overwhelms each of us with more gifts than we'll ever know.

Father Andrew Greeley, way back in the early '70s, in A Touch of the Spirit, wrote that the Spirit "works with the most creative, the most open, the most dynamic dimensions of our own personality. When that which is most enthusiastic, most visionary, most hopeful, most open, most cheerful in us is functioning, then we can be confident that God's Spirit is at work."

We go on professing our belief that Jesus calls us to live as members of his body in the church--not just an impersonal organization with its ups and downs, but the very risen body of Jesus, the Son of God, our Lord and Savior. Jesus forgives our sins and promises we will live with him forever and ever. Amen. Wow!

The psalms of the people of Israel that are woven into our liturgy and form the core of our Prayer of the Hours are the basis of many of the songs we sing in church and offer some of the most glorious proclamations of praise.

"O Lord, our Lord, how glorious is your name over all the earth" (Ps. 8).

"I will give thanks to you, O Lord, with all my heart. I will declare all your wondrous deeds. I will be glad and exalt in you. I will sing praise to your name Most High" (Ps. 9).

"I love you, O Lord, my strength, my rock, my fortress, my deliverer, my shield, the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. Praised be the Lord, I exclaim!" (Ps. 18).

Try to imagine the enthusiasm of the women and apostles upon finding the tomb of Jesus empty and then experiencing the risen Lord among them. Imagine the excitement of Mary's "Rabbunni!" as she recognizes the risen Jesus in the person she thought was the gardener and in the "My Lord and my God" in the formerly doubting, now believing Thomas. Can you imagine the enthusiasm the blind man felt when Jesus enabled him to see, the thrill Lazarus felt as he hobbled out of the tomb, the excitement in the home of the little girl he brought back to life, the exhilaration in the paralyzed man putting his mat in the rummage sale? Jesus wowed people.

The enthusiasm of these people was based on their experiences of Jesus' saving action in their daily lives, and we look forward to experiencing him as Savior in another life. And that's good news beyond our comprehension. But maybe it doesn't give us much enthusiasm as we wake up on a cloudy morning and go off to work or school or gather for worship. One of the greatest compliments people pay me is being impressed or almost startled by my enthusiasm and joy. I've been called "disgustingly happy." I'm glad it shows because that's the way I feel. I have plenty of reasons not to be happy. I could worry about my health, the health of family and friends, or the effectiveness and value of my ministry. I could become depressed about misunderstandings and struggles with individuals, church policies, social problems. I could allow myself to be eaten by guilt caused by my many unfaithfulnesses. I could feel lonely and unappreciated. But I don't. I come to Jesus to be saved from all this, each day and many times a day. I do mental channel changes.

When tempted to worry, I change the channel to think of God's loving care and put the people and issues of my concern in his very capable hands. When feeling lonely or unappreciated, I change the channel to remember his presence in me and his infinite and unconditional love. When guilt gets heavy, after asking God's forgiveness and trying to do what I can to heal the hurts I've caused others, I change the channel to concentrate on his forgiveness and hold up those I've hurt to his healing power.

All these negative thoughts keep coming back, but I keep changing the channel and make the Lord (and not myself) the center of my thoughts. And I'm saved. Instead of being filled with negative crud, I'm open to a renewed awareness of God's love and the innumerable gifts of the Spirit within me. And am I grateful! I look forward t letting the Lord know, in personal, community, and liturgical prayer, my gratitude for his constant saving work in me.

Enthusiasm comes from two Greek words, en and theos, meaning "in God." As we keep ourselves in God rather than in ourselves, we're saved. Really experiencing that continuous salvation gives us enthusiasm for our saving God. A cheer for God. And we have the Eucharist to let our enthusiasm out. In our weekly or daily thanksgiving meal, we shout our praises to the God who saves us now. We should sing, not say, a Glory to God in the highest whom we worship, thank, and praise for taking away the sin of the world.

We sing again a psalm, which is often one of praise and thanksgiving for God's daily saving work in us. We shout God's glory as our response to hearing God's saving word. With enthusiasm rather than boredom we profess our faith in our creating, saving, forgiving, life-giving God.

We begin the Eucharistic Prayer, again properly singing our thanks and praise always, and everywhere to the God whose saving work in Jesus we highlight. We continue with our songs of Hosannas to the God of power and might who fills the heaven and earth with God's glory.

We remember the greatest event in all history, the central event of the life of Jesus, and the most significant event in our lives--the saving death and resurrection of Jesus. We proclaim the fabulous facts that Christ has died, risen, and will come again! He destroyed our death, restored our life, and will come again in glory! His resurrection truly sets us free from all that would keep us from living life to the fullest.

The songs, which should be part of every liturgy, aren't just time fillers in the background. They're the entire assembly's prayer: "He will raise us up on eagle's wings, make us to shine like the sun, and hold us in the palm of his hand."

Of course, these sung prayers, expressing such powerful words of praise and thanksgiving, have to be sung not like ponderous dirges but with life, vitality, and enthusiasm. If the people in music ministry can't help the congregation to sing them this way, maybe their gifts for ministry should be rediscerned.

People say many Catholics aren't used to singing, shouting, and cheering. Tell me that about the Catholics at football, baseball, and basketball games, yelling and screaming for a team that has done nothing for them. How about a little of that enthusiasm in the celebration for the God who did and does everything for us. Once we have this enthusiasm and express it at faithbuilding Eucharists, people will start coming back. As Archbishop Rembert Weakland has observed, a dynamic liturgy flows into transforming action in society. Once we not only as individuals but also as a community experience and celebrate God's saving love in our lives, we want it to flow to others.

Start this whole, wonderful, transforming process by putting a little Wow! into your life and your parish.
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Copyright 1994, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:efforts to develop enthusiasm over Catholic faith
Author:Luka, Ron
Publication:U.S. Catholic
Date:Sep 1, 1994
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