Over at his blog, Bishop Christopher Coyne of Indianapolis has some thoughts on the power of liturgy to evangelize:
The Church’s liturgy, by it’s very nature, is an evangelical act, meaning it is a proclamation of the Word who became flesh, who desires an encounter with himself that sparks a relationship grounded in his Body through Word and Sacrament. Even more so, if Christ is truly present in the Word proclaimed and in the Sacrament celebrated, those present at the liturgical celebration, no matter how nascent or lukewarm their faith may be, who are seeking something true and deep in their lives, will hear the call of Jesus Christ to come to Him even if they are not sure what they may be experiencing.
Notice something important here. It is that word “relationship.” Jesus Christ calls each if us to Himself. He calls us to a relationship with Him that invites us to come to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him. This call is manifested clearly in the Church’s announcement of the good news of salvation and this announcement, as the Church teaches, reaches its heights in its liturgy celebrated by Christ the Head and we the Body. This call of Christ to a deeper relationship with Him is made to all who are present within the liturgical assembly.
But allow me to state the obvious: there is often a disconnect between what is supposed to be happening in the liturgy and what actually occurs. Christ’s call is often met with what seems to be “deaf ears.” While the full reasons for this are unique to each individual, it seems to me that there are two basic end points at which the connection between the human person as participant and the liturgy as a evangelical act can break down. The first is when the person who is participating is not able to connect to the deeper meanings and reality of the liturgy because their own life is so far away from the meanings and realities present. So, for example, if one’s life is disordered by selfishness and sin it is very difficult to see and accept the call to conversion into the person of Christ present in the Church’s liturgy. Or if one is intellectually hostile to the possibility of a Divine Being or a revealed religion, one cannot see the liturgy as anything more than a bunch of superstitious nonsense. The disconnect is from the side of the person and no celebration of the liturgy no matter how well done is going to matter in their lives.