The New Evangelization: Spirituality behind “Accompaniment”

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Road to Emmaus

Terminology:  Accompaniment, Assent, and Relationship

Of late there has been an intense reflection in the Church on “accompaniment.”  I haven’t noticed a triggered reaction by many to the word, but rather I see people wanting clarification as to what that accompaniment actually involves.  For those unaware, this term “accompaniment” is applied to people who find themselves outside of communion with the Church for various reasons.  The idea is that people within the Church do not merely say:  “Go clean yourself and then come back to me, then I’ll be ready to love you.”  Rather, people are willing to build and foster relationships wherever the person currently is in their relationship to Christ and the Church.

I believe “accompaniment”  is a good term that the Church has been using to discuss what might be referred at times to as pre-evangelization.  The Church does have a mission to evangelize, and such a call involves facilitating an environment whereby the Church can come to encounter the living Jesus, the mystery of His life, death, and Resurrection, and experience His intense love in a way that generates rootedness (discipleship) in the faith.  Pre-evangelization and accompaniment are not exclusively related to each other, however much of the work of pre-evangelization involves a willingness on the part of evangelists to walk with a person who has not yet encountered Christ with the fullness of their being.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI explains that faith is not merely assent from one particular faculty of the human person (mind, heart, or will), but involves the complete integration of the three.  After all, faith is a virtue, which we know if we’ve studied means that simply doing the right thing doesn’t mean we have won virtue, but rather when our affect is aligned to a mind that is aligned to the truth through the will, we have reached spiritual health in virtue.  Many people might have degrees of integration, but it doesn’t become a healthy and rooted virtue until the mind, heart, and will all assent to faith in Jesus.  This “assent” seems like a cold and sterile manner of describing faith, and the prieststerm “relationship” can be ambiguous.  Everyone has a relationship with God – it just might not be a good-relationship.  But “relationship” is a better or more preferred word (in my opinion) than a reduction to assent which generally applies to the mental cognitive response to doctrine.  Although I do believe assent of the heart and assent of the mind both imply a relationship through the will, I do believe that people might be more comfortable with understanding faith in the context of a relationship, rather than with terminology that is often associated with a mere dialectic reduction.

Evangelists are therefore called not merely to inform (catechize) people of doctrine but to allow the content of the faith to be integrated in the mind and heart and acted on through the will.  As a result, catechesis must take on a more dynamic approach – and so while it is necessary it must be understood that without the context of a relationship with Jesus, catechesis amounts to nothing more than water sliding off the back of a duck.  Catechesis needs to be interiorized, and rarely can this happen, if at all, if a person has not encountered God as a personal, loving being.  It can often be the fact that either a purely sentimental relationship (just emotion) or a purely theoretical relationship (just intellectual) is facilitated, and when this is the case, a full integration hasn’t taken place in the person because God is either a consoling-fiction of the heart or a hobby of the catechism697bmind.  The will permits us to take the leap, whereby such truths begin to sink into a context of relationality  (integration/internalized). Without an encounter (with Christ), we might mistakenly go after a relationship in all the wrong ways, whereby a person willfully (rather than willingly) seeks to develop faith, and thus becoming self-referential in his or her quest for integration. This distinction was mentioned by St. Theresa of Lisieux, who wanted to emphasize the importance of a will that was not considering itself the “first-mover” in one’s quest for a good relationship with God.  It is crucial therefore to understand the paramount importance of a God who “loved us first.”  While this is true ontologically, it must also be true in the phenomena or experience of our own life.  That is to say we must have experienced or encountered God initiating a relationship with us, so that we can interiorize the foundation of such a relationship as unmerited, zealous love.    If it is the case that we seek to be loved by God through our will, such a self-referential disposition univocally means self-righteousness – and this does violence to our own life as well as the lives of others.

Self-referential spirituality typically fosters legalism or moral laxity as both arrive from a non-integrated vision of who God is as a loving and ever present Father and Brother in Jesus.  The Holy Spirit remains abstract in the mind and heart of the person – a type of “energy” that we tap into – rather than a Divine person.   Without a very down-to-earth awareness of God as a personal being – the simplicity of the Gospel – the heart and mind will never have the proper context in which to discuss God, His law, His liturgy, or even our own identity.  Without such a context, we end up with disjointed ideas and no emotional equilibrium when discussing our various value-systems that become relativized (disordered) in regard to their priority and gravity.

The loss of integration – if it was there previously – can occur too when a person “forgets” to “do this in memory of Me.”  Meaning, when we fail to pray and act as if God is truly alive, present, loving us infinitely and indwelling in our very soul more so than we could ever truly be aware of, we naturally begin to have a relationship with an idea of God rather than God, or a sentiment of God or emotional desire rather than an actual recollected heart, mind, and will that experiences or knows of his penetrating gaze as the Lover of our soul.

Superficiality as a Symptom of Familiarity

Forgetfulness or being malformed by a non-integrated approach involves what the Church now calls the “new-evangelization” whereby the same Gospel is re-presented in a new way – in a manner that people are not familiar with.  As Aquinas suggests, “familiarity breeds contempt.”  When we do not have reverence and simplicity towards God, but rather familiarity, we automatically place ourselves into a disposition where we are unwillingly to open ourselves to a new and deeper experience and understanding of God.  Therefore, Thomas Aquinasmuch of the work of evangelization involves working against this lack of awareness of mystery before a deep, relevant, and infinitely good God.  Familiarity is not only a problem in regard to our relationship with Christ, but also is a problem in our relationship with each other.  If we cannot honour God with the depth he deserves, we will certainly become inconsistent with our neighbour.  This is the case because God deserves such reverence as a result of justice, and if we are willingly neglecting justice where it primarily belongs, our motivation is not out of justice in all our relationships, but rather disordered and built out of convenience.  As we stand before our neighbours created in the image and likeness of an infinitely interesting and loving God, do we recognize that they display in some measure the depth of God?

When we become too familiar with our neighbour, our spouse, or our friends, we have placed them into a box and can quickly summarize who they are to us.  Therefore we lose any sense of surprise and if we do experience surprise we are often alienated by it because it shatters our overly simplistic judgments of one another.  Generally we are more apt to do this toward one another if our relationship is remote – if we live at a distance, and don’t take a genuine interest in the lives of others.  Without accompaniment we are more likely to look at those hungering for the gospel with an overly irreverent glance, not taking heed of the deep yearning currently taking place in their soul.  Likewise, if our relationship with God is perceived as remote or distant, we end up with a more theoretical understanding of God that again leads back to a disintegrated faith.

Familiarity therefore is, in my opinion, the sinful disposition that in fact becomes a stumbling block to the little ones that come seeking Christ.  If we feel entitled like the Apostles to keep at bay those craving for a relationship and encounter with Christ (objectively), it is us who have become far too familiar with Christ to make such a terrible decision. This may manifest itself if we perceive non-believers to have no interior longing for Christ – if this is the case – then we have redefined humanity’s ontological disposition before God.  It becomes a scandal when a non-believer’s views are validated by an indifferent spirit towards what a Christian truly hunger for – but such is often the case when we become overly pluralistic or elitist.  A pluralist suggests a type of satisfaction in knowing God anonymously (which is contrary to a revealing God, and the anthropology of the human person who wants to know Love has a name).  The elitist uses the faith in order to exclude others as if by this act he himself becomes superior by his own merit.  Both dispositions univocally are stumbling blocks before the children of God who are a desert land starving for the Spring of refreshment in Christ.

A Remedy to Familiarity (and the Eucharist)

For a moment, however, I’d like to approach the subject of familiarity in our neighbour and why “accompaniment” offers us a remedy to such tendency today.  Accompaniment again is often used abstractly – people wonder if this “accompaniment” turns into a condoning of morally scandalous behaviour, or the reception of the Eucharist prior to a person’s proper disposition toward the sacrament.  The reason for this tension is that today, people generally want to feel like they belong prior to adhering to a doctrine.  This perhaps is why cults are often successful when they prey on the lonely, because doctrine no longer represents the truth content behind the nature of a relationship with God, but rather a mere hoop to jump through in order to maintain one’s status with the said community.  A desire to belong is good – but the person must be formed well enough to understand that we should belong first to reality – so that whatever love we experience, will be genuine.

In regard to the Eucharist being used as a means to make other people feel as if they belong I’d prefer to bracket that discussion in this blog-post and rather offer the anthropological and spiritual reasons why accompaniment is important.  If we can understand why accompaniment is important from the spiritual point of view, we can then examine the latter question more critically and in the proper context.  I would only like to make the comment that we as a church need to extend our vision of the Church beyond the liturgy – and to see opportunities for belonging and community, in the family, in the marketplaces, and in the world in general.  When we compartmentalize the total work of evangelization to the liturgy, we begin to act contrary to the very nature and identity of the liturgy, which has a part to play, but if not integrated into the life of the Church becomes another form of clericalism.  That is to say, we depend on the cleric for Empty Pewsthe liturgy, by which the whole context of evangelization supposes to takes place.  The world is secular and the Church becomes the only place where the gospel is practiced and preached.   Such an attitude demeans the very dignity and role of the laity which is to extend the presence of Christ to all nations.  This would only contradict the teachings of Vatican II which justly teaches that the laity are called to something great in their respective vocation that is not reduced to “being a lector” at mass.  Rather they are to preach the Gospel in areas where the clergy cannot go, and perhaps do not have the gifts to go.  The clergy need to step out of their way, by not using the Eucharist in a context it was never meant to have.    The Eucharist is the summit of the Christian life – and climbing that summit requires formation and discipleship.  Therefore the Eucharist cannot be used as a method of pre-relationship or pre-evangelization, but it can be seen as something to journey towards as the integration of such a relationship.  When this takes place, the role of the laity is respected and the reception of the Eucharist is received in the right disposition and therefore in a fruitful manner.  So the Church must stop framing the Eucharist as a marketing-tool for pre-evangelization, so that a longing for such communion can begin to well up in those Christians who are in a spiritual state of sacred-waiting.  Elitists likewise must not present the Eucharist as a sort of “prize” for those who are already perfect.  Rather it must be presented as for those who are humbled and open to God’s mercy through repentance, yet still nonetheless limping, because of the effects of original sin.

If we can understand the spiritual meaning behind accompaniment, I believe it will lead to a better integration of what accompaniment really is all about.  Obviously we cannot condone unfaithful behaviour, but we must keep in mind that Christ was seemingly accused of doing this when He ate with sinners.  His eating with sinners who may have not repented does not imply offering the sacrifice of the Eucharist to those in mortal sin, but rather His willingness to initiate a relationship with others wherever they were spiritually.  This act of Christ takes place in their respective homes – and thus offers us something broader than the liturgy as an example.  And it is important for people to note that Christ ate with sinners:  both tax collectors and Pharisees.  Christ had a particular love and paid a particular attention to the Pharisees, at times eating with them.  So often today, you get the impression that Christ hated Pharisees – which is impossible for a God of love.  Rather, perhaps a cleric’s own wrath is projected into the scriptures, not seeing that Christ was at times harsh with the Pharisees, but that such harshness was out of genuine love as a father reproves his sons and daughters.  Christ didn’t avoid those who were likely elitist – he engaged them in discussion and was willing to challenge their view of the faith.  The one thing Christ seemed to do was to break down the cliques or “clubs” that existed by making Himself universally present to all the various groups.

Census of the Faithful?  Lets go deeper!

Accompaniment is where a Christian lays the foundation to a relationship with another person so they can become aware that they are not being reduced to an anonymous number in a pew to fulfill our desire for greater statistics as a sign of success in ministry.  People do not want to be treated like numbers or a “personal project” to satisfy an egotistical aim.  Accompaniment rather is based upon a genuine love for a

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particular human-person who is created beautifully by God, has a name, has depth, to whom God Himself purchased at the Cross by His own blood – a soul worth dying for, at least according to God.  And when we love the hungry and poor, how much more should we love the chance to serve those who are hungry for Christ, and poor in spirit?  Man does not live on bread alone, but hungers for something “deeper.”  Are we aware of that deeper ache in ourselves, so as to be aware of it in others?  Or like King David, do we rely, inordinately on a census to depict how we are doing spiritually?  The picture here by the way depicts the plague that occurred as a punishment for King David’s census.

 

Now, this accompaniment, as I mentioned recognizes that the person we are speaking to is not merely convinced by emotional statements or intellectual syllogisms, but something that is an integration of the two and the deeper healing that needs to take place in their life.  In Jeremiah 6, this superficial or “familiar” approach to conversion was described as:  “They dress the wound of my people  as though it were not serious.  Peace, peace,’ they say,   when there is no peace.” (Jer 6: 14).  If we have a deeper vision of people we can begin to also understand that wounds are deep, and require more than a Band-Aid solution or a “good argument” or a hug.  If we can comprehend our own depth of character we can again be more aware of the depth in others.  Here this wound is not so much addressing mere emotional distress or a physical injury, but more so it speaks about a type of interior peace that is not experienced – something to do with the conscience.  When we lack spiritual-peace it can mean that we are deeply wounded by sin – and this wound of sin is what wasn’t taken seriously enough.  Sometimes our preoccupation is on the emotional wounds of “not feeling happy,” or the error that leads others into very problematic situations.  But there is a deeper wound than both, and it is the wound of sin, from the will, and also the wound of original sin (being born into a world alienated from God and neighbour).  This wound of alienation that Christ experienced on the Cross caused Him to cry out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.”  Although Christ was not truly forsaken, in becoming Sin for us without sinning He experienced existentially the deep wound and punishment of alienation from God that we inflict upon ourselves through sin.  This is the truly deep wound that requires our own attention – and if we haven’t attended to it within ourselves, we will not even begin to be conscious of it in others and therefore treat it lightly.

The point is that the wound we are addressing has no easy solution; and that wound is an absence of faith.  Diving deeply into the wound inspires great fear, anxiety, and distress.  pleadingEntering into such a depth takes a great deal of courage, not unlike what we see in Dante’s Inferno.  Some scholars have suggested that Dante’s Divine Comedy is an existential journey through the geography of the soul, whereby we confront within ourselves the evil impulses, and wounds caused by our sinfully inclined nature.  Sometimes when we encounter such horrific things within ourselves we “faint.”  It is a journey that Dante stressed was something we shouldn’t do alone – and so God sent a companion to be with him– that he might not have to walk through hell, alone.

This wound or hell that we need to confront is not for the sake of self-shaming as many might quickly accuse it of becoming.  Rather it is the process of healing.  If we recall in Exodus, Moses sets up a bronze staff with a bronze serpent to become the means by which the Israelites were healed.  The snake of course represented the very wound of their sin, which brought forth distress and death to the Israelites.  It was in their naming and confronting or renouncing of their sin (repentance) that they were actually healed.  Likewise, when we see the Cross which was raised up as “sin for us” (2 Cor 5:21), we are looking upon His wounded side and thereby able to comprehend the very nature of our sin against an all loving and infinitely innocent God.  And it would be by the Cross; by His crossstripes that we would be healed (Is 53: 5).  But who wouldn’t fear this process, especially with an enemy scripture calls the “accuser.”  The devil reminds us of that wound, but not to heal it, but rather to tear it open and infect it with more vice.  It is no wonder that modern psychology associates shame with an ongoing addiction.  Guilt here differs because guilt is born of love, whereas shame is still a type of narcissism where one regrets sin but out of self-preoccupation.  Love or charity therefore does not pull someone out of sin, but selfishness keeps him or her enslaved to it through shame.  Shame is an incredible counterfeit to guilt, and it is inspired by the accuser.  We might turn to sin in order to numb the pain by a superficial awareness of what is really going on underneath the surface. Therefore through addiction or vice we become forgetful of our wounds and again treat them lightly.

When a person comes across as the “accuser” which is a temptation for anyone in ministry, the soul of that person will automatically turn back to sin, because the pain is simply too much bear alone.  Shaming isolates the person in themselves – but love can argument2bear the fruit of guilt – whereby a person weeps for their sin out of love for their neighbour and God, and such tears represent that the healing has begun.   As Jesus says about such individuals who shame:  “They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them” (Mt 23:  4).

Healing the Wound of Shame and Isolation

Accompaniment offers a person who is willing to walk with another, as fellow-sinners.  But in that fellowship the evangelist has also experienced healing in which they hope to share with the other who perhaps is spiritually crippled by fear and may be “acting-out” as a result.  That is to say that often our sin or immoral behaviour is a symptom of a deeper wound which requires healing.  Thus, if we become moralizers, what happens is we begin to attack the “bad-fruit” rather than the root of the problem.  If we become morally lax we simply act as if there isn’t a very profound and deep problem, offering the false consolation that God accommodates for one’s disordered passions and sinful inclinations.

Bishop Robert 20120629-134348.jpgBarron stresses that at the root of all pride is a fundamental fear that God is not actually good.  It was the case that Eve “listened” to an alternative view of God, and in that listening entertained it as a possibility.  Through that entertainment of the serpent, she developed fear that led her to take charge of her own vocation and mission through pride.  It was fear and the wounds inflicted upon the soul of Eve that led to the fall of the entire human race.  Sometimes we do not really understand how significant or serious that wound is.  Even with the communal blame washed away through baptism, the lie planted in each human being that God is not a good Father, nonetheless remains in concupiscence.  Eve was convinced that God was a moralizing tyrant (did God really tell you not to eat of any of the trees?), that God was a liar, (surely you will not die), and that God was in violent competition with mankind (you will become like God).    Therefore God’s authority as a Father is given a false context – it isn’t love, its tyranny;  God’s trustworthiness is cast into doubt because He is a liar; and God isn’t happy unless He is oppressing us.  With that sown in our hearts, it becomes very difficult to obey or listen to God when He asks us to do what seems to possibly cause us grief. And if a person has such a disposition, yet obeys God, they begin to emulate in the god whom the devil has conjured in their own hearts and minds, in how they treat others – and these are the legalists.

Furthermore, when a person has been making decisions out of that fear and pride for years, the fear becomes fortified.  Think of the roots of a tree wrapped around the ground with which the soil of fear abides.  When you tug on those roots in an attempt to uproot the sin, the fear is felt, and comes to a head.  The illusion of sin is beginning to pop, and all that is left is that lie-based-fear!

What does scripture suggest to us, in order to remedy such fear?  “Perfect charity casts out fear” (1 John 4:18).  And that charity casts out fear because it reassures the person that no matter what fear or truths they find as they begin to explore that interior geography, that they are unconditionally loved.  Ultimately when the Christian witnesses to such love they are not communicating themselves as the source of such love, but the infinitely wise and all knowing God as one who loves the sinner without conditions.  When this begins to be the case, the Christian becomes open to looking honestly at that rooted sin, with less and less fear.

Think for a moment of a divorced and remarried person.  Without an annulment – say if it wasn’t reasonably possible – the person has rooted themselves into a relationship that likely involves genuine goodness, but is founded and sustained by a constant abandonment of their only spouse.  We cannot compartmentalize the latter or the former, but we must also admit that the wound of betrayal (even if it was mutual) has not been healed in that soul and becomes a play-ground for the “accuser” to perpetually shame the individual or harden them against what genuine committed love looks like.  That remarried individual might have established the new relationship for any number of reasons, had children in that relationship.  The idea of “leaving all things behind to follow Christ” is an incredibly scary concept when applied to such a situation.  To prefer God over our human relationships is a tense and difficult cross to ask someone to do, and it cannot be treated with flippancy, as if to suggest it was easy.  It may be simple to understand, but incredibly difficult to surrender to – especially when a person has been emotionally invested into such a relationship, compartmentalizing the spirit of adultery that is foundation to such a relationship.  Like the roots of a tree, they have rooted themselves into the ground deeply, and been nourished and sustained on the fear that one’s happiness and peace depends upon such a relationship.  But peace comes from a good conscience, and a healed conscience – one that has surrendered to God’s teaching – not because it de-facto is right, but because it springs forth genuine love in the soul.  Genuine love does not compartmentalize sin, as if such compartmentalization was an alternative to purifying ourselves of sin through confession.  Jesus said with a great deal of compassion about the Rich-man who walked away that it was difficult for the rich to leave all things behind.  We must understand that richness is not merely a monetary reality, but can also pertain to emotional attachments to things and persons.  It is a disordered form of idolatry, that is mixed with some very real good things – as a virus can at times infiltrate a healthy cell.

What of people who are practicing homosexuality and have been for years?  Perhaps their belief is that without such a partner they cannot possibly be happy.  They are tapping into what scripture says:  “it is not good for man to be alone” (Gen 2:18).  All lies have some measure of truth or goodness to them, otherwise we wouldn’t begin to believe in them.  But the failure here is in realizing that the ultimate longing we all have is actually associated to a marriage with God in heaven.  One cannot have such a peace and joy-filled life with God if deep down they realize their conscience is at war with God’s own will.  Furthermore, a person must love their neighbour for who they objectively are, and not merely where their affect is ordered, otherwise it becomes another form of compartmentalization, whereby one hates a part of themselves (what makes us male or female) and only embraces what maximizes pleasure and a sense of belonging.  A full integration of themselves to “belong” is required, but in order for that to happen, no part of the person can be compartmentalized, but rather a total integration of what it means to be male or female.

The interior longing therefore becomes idolized again by creatures, and one has rooted themselves around this idol because of a fear of unhappiness and an absence of fulfillment – what a terrible lie for a person to believe.  Our happiness is no longer grounded in God, but in the same control Eve exerted to define her vocation according to her own appropriation of truth (eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil).  And so a measure of happiness is found in the good that is mixed in with the lie, and this acts again as a false-consolation, and a numbness to a deeper longing for God.

One can see after assessing the dynamics of both situations how a mere syllogism or emotional appeal to know Jesus “loves you” has to actually sink-in through an encounter with God.  If God is hypothetical in His love, people will not leave all things behind for a “hypothetical” loving God.  Furthermore, to attempt to evangelize a person with a flippant “I’m just speaking the truth out of love” becomes inauthentic if the person isn’t willing to eat with them, to talk about deep things, to take an interest in their own good-nature, and to be willing to help them know they are loved unconditionally as God loves them.  That is accompaniment.  A person, with compassion (suffering-with) helps to carry the other cross, by walking with them.  Without that as a foundation, the conversion that might take place could actually be superficial and damaging for the Church.  If a person pakistan-christian experiences a conversion merely for emotional reasons – it may be that they belong to the Church merely to “feel belonging.”  But there needs to be something deeper than seeking a mere feeling which can be false.  Such a habit of seeking feelings, can cause a person to flip-flop constantly between the Church and the world.  Likewise if the conversion is only intellectual it could lead to a sterile, stoic vision of God that later leads to a harmful and cold, tyrannical way of describing faith.  Both add dysfunction to the Church that places a stumbling block in encountering Christ.  And while such conversions may happen, and that those conversions be good to some degree, they must always be founded from charity, otherwise fear is still the driving force behind what they choose to believe or experience as “faith.”  Pride remains deeply rooted, and only the façade of faith is visible.

In summation, I’d like to suggest that those genuinely interested in evangelization first examine the depth of your own relationship with Christ.  If you aren’t praying – please start that up again – because it will help you in becoming aware of your own depth before God, and therefore help you become compassionate to others who also have such depth.  Get into touch with the longings of your own heart, as well as the direction and integrity you can receive from sound doctrine.  In doing so you will develop a more integrated relationship with Christ and therefore have what you need to help others.  St. Thomas Aquinas taught that when serving our neighbour in spiritual matters we must first take a greater focus on our own spiritual life – because we cannot give what we do not have.  With the motivation of being enriched by Christ for His glory and the service of neighbour, you will have the right disposition in seeking your own spiritual good first, not out of narcissism, but out of a desire to serve others well.

Furthermore, I would suggest learning how to listen to other’s suffering.  Interpret the listening as an opportunity to isolate the fear-motivated concepts and attitudes or behaviours.   Their own discussion about such difficulties is really a journey through the hell that is actually tormenting them in their soul.  If you have already walked through this hell, you will probably be able to identify with the essence of what such persons are saying, regardless of the species of their vice.  Listening to them is a way of demonstrating that whatever they say, whatever they express, you are not abandoning them, but are right beside them, in love.  This is hard to do with people who do not recognize their own interior poverty – such people are “rich in spirit” and it is at times impossible to break through that, without them coming to a deeper awareness that the fear that exists within them is actually numbed by the counterfeit of sin. This is why Jesus said:  “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10).  But those who don’t consider themselves lost haven’t opened themselves up to the very deep reality of alienation.   Be patient therefore, and avoid allowing the accuser to speak through you.  None of this means you cannot speak to the person directly.  There are times when a friend can speak towards one in a direct manner that cuts to the heart like a sword – but not a blunted base-ball bat barbed with wire.  The point I’m making is that direct confrontation can be an experience of love – but if love isn’t there, people can generally sniff this out, even if they constantly speak in a nice tone or with words of love.  Therefore be discerning of when to speak and when to defer a conversation for another time.

Finally be careful to distinguish between condoning behaviour and accompaniment.  Laughing at jokes or comments that involve a sort of assent to a false anthropology or theology can in fact reinforce fear (enabling).  Find a way to shift the conversation without shaming.  If they invite you to events that are clearly in contradiction with what is good and healthy for this person, do not attend them, but carefully explain this, and perhaps discuss meeting with them for coffee or dinner after the event – so that they can understand clearly that a door is shut towards a decision they are making but not to them as a person.   Sometimes you might have to step back and allow them some time on their own – do this with prudence, but check-in so that they know you aren’t avoiding them as if they were some sort of leper.  Give them space to breath and listen to what is going on under the surface.  If all you do is dictate to them what is going on – they may become immune to an awareness of themselves in that regard, tuning it out as a possibility.  Respect the fact that the Spirit casts light on a very complex soul in a creative fashion that we ourselves cannot know or even plan to do on our own.  And most of all, pray for them to facilitate within your own soul a person you hope to experience the joy of the Gospel, but add yourself into that prayer as an act of humility, recognizing that you might be where they are had you walked in their shoes.  Be humble and recognize that it is by God’s grace that we are saved, not by our own pelagian merit.

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