By Sharon Roling and Michael Havercamp
For The Catholic Messenger
“A good person out of the store of goodness in his heart produces good . . . for from the fullness of the heart, the mouth speaks” (Lk. 6:45).
In the ongoing dialogue about the future of our diocesan process, Vision 20/20, an interesting question has emerged: Which comes first, the “being” or the “doing?” The focus of being is an inward journey, of becoming a disciple of Christ. The focus of doing is an outward journey, of becoming an apostle of Christ. An intentional disciple follows the Lord; a missionary disciple is sent by the Lord to continue his saving action in the world.
The question is whether we must focus on the being before we can practice the doing. Should the focus of Vision 20/20 be on the being or the doing? Or is this a false dichotomy (not an “either/or” but a “both/and”)? Some suggest, for example, that before we can focus on evangelization in our parishes we need to learn more about how to “be” the church. From this perspective, we need to become disciples of Christ before we can go out and evangelize others to become disciples of Christ. Only when we become disciples can we act like disciples which, of course, is the most effective way to evangelize, i.e. by modeling Christ-like behaviors to others.
This makes a lot of sense, because even if we go out and evangelize so successfully that we bring legions of fallen-away Catholics and non-believers into the church, they will be turned away if we are hypocrites, if we are not living the Gospel that we preach.
The relationship between the being and the doing is important. It is imperative that we not separate the one from the other. The being creates the capacity within our hearts and minds to do. The doing reminds us of the necessity to be. There is a healthy cycle here, of being and doing … doing and being. Some people act themselves into a new way of being. Others become themselves into a new way of acting. The cause and effect can run in both directions.
We believe that we need to work on both ends of the spectrum. We need to reach out to our brothers and sisters who need to be evangelized and we also need to constantly be praying and reflecting on how we can develop a closer relationship with Christ and become more Christ-like in our personal relationships. Pope Francis reminds us, “It is not simply a matter of doing things, but of doing them with meaning and direction…. It has to do with finding our true selves in the light of God and letting our lives flourish and bear fruit.” The being ensures that our deepest identity is found in Christ’s love. The doing allows the fullness of God’s life in us to well up, spill over into the lives of others and bear good fruit. For “out of the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks.”
We cannot afford to wait for everyone to become nearly perfect Christians before we go out and evangelize or we might never go out and evangelize. The very process of evangelizing is part of what makes us a Christian. Yet it is necessary to keep going back and to do the inner work of deepening our relationship with Christ. In our view, it is not an either/or but a both/and. In fact, the two go so closely hand-in-hand that it is hard to separate them out. Now is the time to draw deep on our identity as the people of God and go out to do the fruitful work of the kingdom.
(Michael Havercamp and Sharon Roling are co-chairs of Vision 20/20.)