I always admire individuals who wear their Catholicism on their sleeves. In this day and age, the ready identification with organized religion is a rarity. In fact, the largest growing group in the United States is the “nones” — namely those who have no identification with an organized religious group.
Witness is such an essential aspect of evangelization. I have often heard in conversions that a person perceives something in the other person that they desire. Introduced to the community of faith, whether it’s a type of serenity, a confidence or a world vision, they want what the members of the faith possess.
Of course a relationship takes time to build and needs an active prayer life, an interest in knowing about the faith and a personal contribution of time, talent and treasure necessary to live well the gift of faith that has been given to them.
We are at a moment in the history of the archdiocese when we need witnesses to the faith. It has long been a contention of mine that a strong Catholic community is good not only for the faith but for the community as well.
In the history of our state, the contribution of Catholics has been significant in education, health care and community building. What drove these individuals to contribute? It was simply their “faith.”
I am not a prophet of doom; however, it is obvious to me our society continues to marginalize religion and its effects on our society. This is a dangerous trend.
As one who has a deep affection for the Founding Fathers, the sentiments of George Washington echo in my mind. In his farewell address, he said, “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. The mere politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and cherish them.”
It should come as no surprise why our society is in such turmoil; it’s because the pillars are being subverted by those who claim political leadership.
Changing the direction of a society which has been fed a celebration of materialism, radical individualism (relativism), and unbridled personal freedom is not a simple task. However, the history of Christianity has given us a formula based on the proclamation of the Gospel, commitment to the person of Christ and a vision of a world to come. At a time when organized religion is decreasing, the society needs the challenges of organized religion more than ever.
How do we get back on track? First, we must have an abiding confidence in the message and the messenger. It is Jesus himself who gives us the church. He is the messenger and his message is to evangelize the world.
Our most recent popes have all preached the new evangelization. Pope Francis has called us all to our responsibility to be “missionaries.” Perhaps we have forgotten we are all called to share our faith. In our recent history, we took seriously our obligation to present the faith to others. It was a privilege to be an instrument of someone’s conversion. But in recent days we seem reluctant to share our faith in a public manner.
Second, we must practice the faith. Sunday Mass is a must. Integrating prayer or Scripture into our daily routine, and developing a relationship with Jesus takes time, as does all relationships. But if we truly understand this as the most essential relationship we have, then the time spent becomes a pleasure. It is necessary and it’s good to be with a friend.
Third, if we call people to profess their faith in Jesus, we need to accept him as our Savior and Redeemer. Therefore, we must confess our sinfulness. Jesus came to save us from sin and offer us new life.
But if no one sins, then why do I need a Savior? In a revealing personal statement, Pope Francis, when asked how he would define himself, said he is a sinner. Pope Francis knows his Savior and Redeemer.
St. John Paul II reminds us the two sacraments in the vanguard of reform are Eucharist and Reconciliation. Our Archdiocesan Synod mission statement is to proclaim the Gospel, making intentional disciples through the sacramental life of the church. We use these sacred moments, the sacraments, to form ourselves for the tasks ahead.
Last Friday and Saturday the Cousins Center was filled with potential missionaries. The topic was evangelization and the Sunday Mass, a priority of the work of the synod. Representatives from our parishes received a challenge to turn our parishes from “maintenance” parishes into “mission” oriented parishes.
A conscious decision to accomplish this in our parishes would attempt at fulfilling the great commission Jesus gave us, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Mt 28:19-20).
Now is the moment for us to step forward and to do our part in fulfilling the will of God for our church through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, ignite renew and energize.