Phil Lawler over at Catholic Culture reports a very insightful exchange between Pope Benedict and a reporter. The reporter asked what the Church can do to be more attractive to the public. After all, the Church is about bringing in new members, right? Not according to the pope:
I would say that a Church that seeks to be particularly attractive is already on the wrong path, because the Church does not work for her own ends, she does not work to increase numbers and thus power. The Church is at the service of another: she serves, not for herself, not to be a strong body, rather she serves to make the proclamation of Jesus Christ accessible, the great truths and great forces of love, reconciling love that appeared in this figure and that always comes from the presence of Jesus Christ. (emphasis added)
How many of us have, even subconsciously, fretted about how unattractive the Church can look at times? After all, we are not going to win any popularity contests with the “right” people. We want the Church to be attractive to Hollywood, Washington, our teens, our relatives, and all those whom we love. This is natural, because we want them to see the Church for what she really is: the Body of Christ and the Ark of Salvation. We know that if people find the Church attractive, they are more likely to investigate her claims, and then might consider joining her ranks.
But Pope Benedict is reminding us that being attractive is not something we can manufacture, nor should it be a goal in our evangelistic efforts. Our attractiveness comes from being faithful to Christ, and even then we will only be attractive to those who desire the good with a sincere heart. We will never be attractive to those who reject God, and trying to make ourselves attractive to them will only lead to a watering-down of the Gospel.
But lest anyone get too carried away, let us also remember that it is not our goal to be unattractive either. I have met some people over the years who have shown no charity along with their proclamation of the truth. When challenged on this, they claim that they don’t care if they are liked, they just want to preach the Gospel. Preaching the Gospel, however, doesn’t mean being a jerk. So while we never want to put “being attractive” as the primary goal of our evangelization, that doesn’t mean we make extra efforts to offend either. We present the truth in the most loving way possible and leave it to the Holy Spirit to impact hearts.