What is the most important thing every Catholic can do in order to saved? The answer has not changed in 2,000 years: don’t just keep the faith, spread it!
The post-resurrection accounts of the appearances of Jesus carry a remarkably clear and consistent impulse to spread the Gospel. In much the same way as Mark 1:12 tells of the Holy Spirit “driving” or even “compelling” Jesus into the wilds at the brink of his public ministry, those who saw the dead and risen Christ are invariably sent forth or commissioned to tell the Good News. First the disciples on the road to Emmaus, then Mary Magdalene, soon the Apostles and, with them, all the disciples are caught up in the command to be witnesses “to the ends of the earth.”
Every Catholic is an evangelist – or ought to be! This is the soul of the “The New Evangelization,” which seeks to energize the faith-life of every Christian by watering the seed planted to grow at Baptism and to bear the fruit it is meant to.
Profoundly aware that all too many Catholics may feel themselves ill-prepared for articulating publicly the faith they love, the United States Bishops have just released a timely catechetical resource entitled Disciples Called to Witness: the New Evangelization. It is accessible on the website of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (www.usscb.org) and contains a wealth of information and insights on how to promote The New Evangelization on every level, especially in parishes and homes. We strongly encourage every reader to give this document as wide a circulation as possible, not only among those already involved in catechetical ministries like CCD, Adult Formation and RCIA, but also groups of young adults, parish staffs, families and those preparing for baptism and marriage.
As we gear up for the upcoming 2012-2013 “Year of Faith” which our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI has called for in response to the “profound crisis of faith, a loss of a religious sense which represents one of the greatest challenges for the Church today,” there is no better way than to promote a grass roots, door-to-door and person-to-person engagement of every Catholic to his or her baptismal commitment.
It is inescapable that the terms by which our personal salvation is accomplished are bound to our participation in the mission of the Church. There is no such thing for a Christian as “Jesus and me” only, although there is no salvation without a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. The key to understanding this highly personal yet essentially ecclesial bond with the dead and risen Lord is precisely in the explosive effects of the Resurrection-Ascension of Christ: the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the whole community of believers who now embody his presence and to which the Acts of the Apostles bear powerful testimony. It’s our turn now to accomplish those “greater works” which Jesus encouraged his disciples to anticipate after his return to the Father.
We have made significant strides in our diocese over the past three years in coming to turns with formidable challenges to the managing of our temporalities. Much yet remains to be done, however. We will not sustain the pain and strain of the structural changes that lie ahead without a foundation in the roots our faith that is stronger than any earthly monument to mere human creativity can design or erect.
“The Church’s One Foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord,” we sing. She is HIS creation – not ours – by water and the Word. Letting Jesus revive the vitality of every “living stone” – as St. Peter calls each member – must exclude no one from the mission of evangelization from our youngest to our most mature.
Like the 12-year-old Jesus being about his Father’s business and the venerable Simeon and Anna on the scene at the Presentation, every Catholic must become an evangelist!