Early this afternoon at Ottawa's west end TraveLodge, parents, friends, host families and benefactors came together with returning NET Canada and NET Ireland evangelists in a feast of joyful sharing of the fruits of the year on the road or in parishes.
Three Canadian Parishes in Victoria, Toronto and at Annunciation of Our Lord Church in Gloucester as well as one in Sligo, Ireland hosted stationary teams; there were also two travelling teams in Canada and one in Ireland (the Republic and in Ulster, N. Ireland).
Each NET team member received a group photograph and a certificate of participation in the evangelizing enterprise. Each team's mission statement was read: in some cases, quite daring declarations and spiritually challenging principles.
Then each team put on a skit, did a musical presentation, showed a video of their activities (the Sligo Team, whose members participated in a pilgrimage to Lourdes), etc.
This evening, we had a closing Mass of Thanksgiving at Notre Dame cathedral; with several priests joining me in concelebrating the liturgy. I based my homily "Perform the Work of An Evangelist" on the text which NET had chosen to mark the Year of St. Paul--2 Timothy 4:1-5:
In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I solemnly urge you: proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favourable or unfavourable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching. For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths. As for you, always be sober, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, carry out your ministry fully.
I encouraged them to see with the eyes of faith and to share with others their experience of the Risen Lord in scripture, the Eucharist, their growth in prayer, as our age cherishes witnesses over teachers. I urged them not to let their limitations get in the way of doing this, recalling Paul's experience and spiritual growth:
"Paul wanted everyone to know Christ Jesus and the power of his resurrection, and he enlisted the timid Timothy to trust that God’s power working in him would overcome any apparent limitations. Paul tells the story in Second Corinthians of the “thorn in his flesh” that he asked Jesus three times to take away from him so that he could fulfill the work of an apostle and evangelist more effectively.
"However, the Risen Lord Jesus who regular comforted Paul in Acts, confided to him that the thorn, the sign of Paul’s limitation and weakness (which can stand for any impediment), would not be taken away, because “My grace is sufficient for you; my power is made perfect in weakness”. From then on, Paul said, “I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me” (2 Cor 12:9)."
The music was upbeat and reverent; the graduating NETTERS (from Canada, the US, Australia and Ireland) sang a lovely meditative piece before the final blessing.
Next week, the NET Alumni return to Ottawa for a Fifteen-Year Reunion: if this week's celebrations are any indication of the tone, it should prove spirit-filled and lots of fun.