SAN DIEGO — “Be contagious.” That was the theme of this year’s Diocesan Revival, which was the 40th such celebration to be held in San Diego. It took place Feb. 6-8 at Christ the King Parish.
Deacon Douglas Johnson, who traveled from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles to preach at the three-night event, set the tone for the celebration in his sermon on the opening night.
“In times like these, it’s time to get contagious like we never have before,” he told the predominantly African-American congregation. “What does it mean to be contagious? It means to start a spiritual epidemic of hope and enthusiasm for spreading the Gospel, catching the spirit of revival.”
As he reflected on this theme, Deacon Johnson recounted how he had grown up in a Baptist household and had once been “a proud Catholic-basher” who was convinced that Catholics were on “a fast-track to hell.” When he was dating the Catholic woman who would later become his wife, he didn’t shy away from sharing his views with her, her family or their church friends.
But his future in-laws and their parish pastor were “just contagious as they could be,” he recalled. “The more I hated on them, the more they loved on me.”
As a result, he said, his heart was opened and he became Catholic.
Deacon Johnson spoke of the depths of God’s love, reminding the congregation that God not only loves them more than they can imagine, but is also “in love” with each of them and actively seeking them out. He told them that, during the three nights of revival, they needed only to turn around and face Him to receive this life-changing love.
“My brothers and sisters, this is your night,” he said. “This is your night to be healed, this is your night to be set free, this is your night to be delivered, this is your night to be embraced, this is your night to be accepted, this is your night to come home!”
On a few occasions throughout the evening, Deacon Johnson would invite the congregation to repeat a pithy phrase with the hope that they might internalize the message. One of these phrases was, “It’s time for a U-turn.”
He explained that the Greek word “metanoia” refers to just such a spiritual U-turn, those moments in which God speaks to an individual in such a powerful way that the person’s life is changed forever. Through such experiences, he said, we can recognize God’s plan for our lives.
“There is a plan for you, no matter what you’re going through,” he said, standing at the front of the church as living proof. “There is a plan for you in the heart of God. Christ will work through you.”
Deacon Johnson recalled his grandmother’s prediction that he would become a preacher someday and how he had balked at the idea because he was more interested in money, success and women at that time.
He told those in the audience that they were not there at the revival to be a “wallflower” or a “looky-loo,” but as part of God’s plan — “and it’s a good plan; it’s a blessed plan” — for their lives.
“God chose you to be here tonight,” Deacon Johnson said. “God chose you for a divine purpose.”
The annual Diocesan Revival represents a collaboration between the diocesan Office for Cultural Diversity and the diocesan Commission for African American Catholics. Three local parishes with large African American populations — Christ the King, Holy Spirit and St. Rita — are all involved in the event.
This year, music was provided by the Christ the King Gospel Choir, Christ the King Youth Choir, and Jeremiah Gaddy & the Royal Priesthood. The event also featured the WorldBeat Center drummers on the first night and the St. Stephen Church of God in Christ Mime Choir on the third night. The Knights of Peter Claver and the Ladies Auxiliary were also present on the closing night.
In a letter printed in the revival program, Bishop Robert W. McElroy extended his greeting to all of those who would be attending the event which, he said, “celebrates and shares the deep spiritual heritage of African American Catholics with the entire community.”
He added, “May this year’s worship and praise … help each and every one in attendance ‘catch and share’ with others a renewed enthusiasm for the faith and devotion to the healing Christ.”