My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,
Last weekend, we gathered as a diocese at St. John’s University for the Evangelization Congress. The theme was “The Joy of Encountering Christ – The Family’s Hope” held at St. John’s University. We joined together with the V Encuentro which is a process of bringing together Hispanic leaders throughout the country, emphasizing the importance of involving young, second and third generation Hispanic/Latinos.
The next meeting will be held in Albany in late June, and finally a national meeting in Texas will be held later this year in September.
We were privileged to have the presence of His Excellency, the Most Reverend Christophe Pierre, Apostolic Nuncio to the United States, give a talk to all assembled; first in Spanish to the Encuentro group and then in English to all present at the gathering. Archbishop Pierre’s talk was very practical and truly inspiring. His grasp of the theology of our Holy Father, Pope Francis, made the day very worthwhile. He explained as he saw the principles of the New Evangelizations that we have undertaken in our own diocese in Brooklyn and Queens. The New Evangelization demands of us new methods, new zeal and the formation of new evangelizers. The Archbishop’s talk was aimed at helping people understand how we all can be involved in the New Evangelization.
Our world today is one characterized by unbelief. People tend not to believe in what cannot be proven to them. Science and reason has overtaken faith. But faith does not deny reason or science. Faith goes beyond what can be humanly proven, as it bases itself upon the Word of God and tradition, which are the ultimate truths for all of us.
The New Evangelization demands that each one of us undergo a conversion of heart at some point in our lives. We must turn again to God; otherwise we cannot become a new evangelizer. We cannot preach to others what we ourselves have not accepted, that, indeed, Jesus is Lord. There is no greater good that we can bring to others than the belief in He who is the Savior and our own personal encounter with the Lord.
Pope Francis, in his most recent Apostolic Exhortation, “Gaudete et Exsultate” (“Rejoice and Be Glad”), has given us five characteristics of holiness that should take root in our age. They are the five signs of holiness in today’s world that we need to cultivate. One of the signs deals with the need to evangelize. Holiness, the Pope says, “Is also a parrhesía: it is boldness, an impulse to evangelize and to leave a mark in this world.” Boldness, enthusiasm, the freedom to speak at the apostolic table; all these are included in the word “parrhesía.” It is a Greek word that is hard to translate, and more difficult even to put into practice.
Pope Paul VI, who actually began the work of the New Evangelization, “Evangelii Nuntiandi,” tells us that one of the obstacles of evangelization is not only a lack of fervor, but also a fear of moving out of the present situation. Pope Francis puts it this way, “How we are tempted to keep close to the shore! Yet the Lord calls us to put out into the deep and let down our nets.” (cf. Lk 5:4) I cannot agree more with our Holy Father, as each week I urge the faithful to “Put Out Into the Deep” in so many areas. I could have written this for the Holy Father myself!
Pope Francis goes on to say, “Like the Prophet Jonah, we are constantly tempted to flee to a safe haven. It can have many names: individualism, spiritualism, living in a little world, addiction, intransigence, the rejection of new ideas and approaches, dogmatism, nostalgia, pessimism, hiding behind rules and regulations.” Yes, the Holy Father notes all of the things that seem to preserve our safety. But we are called out of our comfort zone, to take a risk for the Lord and put our fears aside.
The two days at St. John’s University were truly worthwhile for all who were present. On Friday, all of the teachers of the Diocese in Brooklyn and Queens were invited to attend. On Saturday, the delegates and other Spanish-speaking participants for the V Encuentro came with other catechists and other interested parties from Brooklyn and Queens.
In all, the diocese hosted 4,000 people at this two-day event. I take this time to thank Ted Musco, Secretary for Evangelization and Catechesis, and his dedicated staff who worked tirelessly for many months to make this diocesan gathering such a wonderful success. Special thanks to all those at St. John’s for their valuable assistance in making our evangelization conference possible.
Since I came to the Diocese as your Bishop, and, indeed, in my first homily at my Mass of Installation, I mentioned the issue of putting out into the deep. This is not merely a byword or an interesting phrase. Rather, this truly reminds us that if we are to make Christ for the world in this new millennium, we must truly go out of our way. We must try harder. We must experience our own conversion, so that we can be faithful to the Lord’s demand to put out into the deep.