By Deacon John De Gano
I have one of those electronic devices that records the number of steps you take in a day and buzzes approvingly when you reach the goal you have set for yourself.
When Cheryl bought it for me she initially set the goal at 10,000 steps and I have never adjusted it (even though I rarely reached the goal more than four or five times in the year often while attending the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress in Anaheim).
Most of the time, I’m just happy if I reach half the goal by the end of the day.
This is because I spend a fair amount of time in front of the computer, researching and writing homilies, this column for the BYTE, and preparing weekly handouts for my adult confirmation class.
And so it was a bit of a challenge the last couple of months to fully engage myself in our parish’s V Encuentro process. For five weeks we gathered, listened to speakers and left with an assignment to “go out to the peripheries and engage or encounter someone new.”
My schedule saw me attending the diaconate retreat; facilitating several funeral vigil services and rosaries (which made me late to two of our V Encuentro gatherings); witnessing freedom to marry papers being signed; meeting with parishioners and blessing an assortment of religious items.
I rationalized that I’m doing my part since I meet people all the time. I keep an open door policy at the parish and regularly stop what I’m doing to listen to those drop-ins who just happened by that day.
Yet the call to be a missionary disciple on the periphery made me question what steps I am taking to evangelize others and myself each and every day.
In Mt 8:20, Jesus tells the anxious young man who wanted to follow him that,
“Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.”
Jesus spent little time sitting behind a desk or at the office. Jesus didn’t own an electronic device of any sort, yet he managed to encounter people who were on the periphery every day. He would rise and begin his day, walking the dusty roads of Palestine and talking to his disciples about the love and mercy of God.
So why, I wondered, am I sitting here in my office? Was I expecting Jesus to walk through my door? Why wasn’t I racking up ‘steps’ for the Lord? Or hanging out my “Gone Fishin’ sign and moseying over to the corner coffee shop where I might drop my net and encounter a stranger?
Each of us is called to discern how we will serve the Lord; some by going to the missions, others by supporting them through prayer, finances and/or becoming aware of the needs and telling friends and family members about the good work that is being done.
We just have to commit ourselves to get out of the boat (like Peter) and get our feet wet.
The occasional change of scenery may even do us some good!
John De Gano is a deacon at St. Catherine of Alexandria Parish in Riverside.