Friday, December 2, 2011

Let's Get Convinced and Be Convincing

I remember when I was a newly ordained priest, I gave a homily one Sunday about the resurrection and how we too will "rise with Christ."  After Mass, numerous folks spoke to me to find out what exactly I was talking about.  I said, "You know, the resurrection."  One guy asked, "Is this just your opinion or is this something the Church teaches?"  I was astounded.  Another time, I remember driving in my car and listening to a "talk radio" show.  The caller was criticizing the Church about something or other and he said, "You know, I've been a Catholic my whole life.  I went to CCD and church.  And all I can say is that right now Jesus must be rolling over in his grave."  The show's two Catholic hosts concurred.  I thought, "Good grief, this is where we are."

The New Evangelization not only involves an active going out to proclaim the Gospel to those who have not heard it.  The New Evangelization desperately requires a re-evanagelization of those who have already heard it.  If those in the pews are supposed to--as one of the new options for the dismissal at Mass says--"Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord," then they themselves have to be well-formed in the Faith. 

This week, the Wall Street Journal published an article about the Archdiocese of Boston and the article mentioned that we are about to put a focus on evangelization.  One person quoted in the article said that he knew of a diocese where people were going to be going "door to door."  I think that is great.  But, we need to make certain that when somebody opens the door, we have something to tell them.  And, if those people who open their doors decide to walk through the doors of a Catholic parish, we should be prepared to offer them the Gospel in all of its fullness and beauty.

At the beginning of the New Millennium, Blessed John Paul II wrote about the New Evangelization.  This is what he said:

"It is not therefore a matter of inventing a "new programme". The programme already exists: it is the plan found in the Gospel and in the living Tradition, it is the same as ever. Ultimately, it has its centre in Christ himself, who is to be known, loved and imitated, so that in him we may live the life of the Trinity, and with him transform history until its fulfilment in the heavenly Jerusalem. This is a programme which does not change with shifts of times and cultures, even though it takes account of time and culture for the sake of true dialogue and effective communication. This programme for all times is our programme for the Third Millennium. "

Parishes, schools that take Catholic identity seriously, and the New Movements are the places where the New Evangelization is going to happen.  In fact, they are the places where it is already happening.  Gimmicks don't sustain the Faith for very long.  The program we need is already contained in the life of the Church.  I think we need a greater fidelity to preaching the full truth of the Gospel and a greater fidelity to offering the Liturgy with as much dignity and beauty as possible. 

The basics of the Gospel and the Creed need to be continually proclaimed.  And, we need to recognize in our parishes and Catholic communities that we are part of the same events that took place in the Gospels.  Christ is at the center of everything.  Christ is the answer to our heart.  Christ is the Savior.  Christ is the key to eternal life.

The more we become immersed and educated in the Gospels, the Tradition, and the Sacraments, the more we will be made fit for evangelization.  When we knock on the door of any heart, we need to be convinced of Christ.  We need to be convinced through our own encounter with Christ in the life of the Church that Christ is not in his grave. He is Risen. And through our fidelity to this encounter, we then become effective agents of the New Evangelization.  When we are convinced of Christ, evangelization is not some external and oppressive burden imposed upon us.  When we are convinced of Christ, it is our joy that compels us to "Go and Announce the Gospel of the Lord."  Thanks Be to God.

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