Dressing Properly for the Feast

Jesus at Table cropped

Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A – October 12, 2014

Matthew’s parable of the wedding feast and the declined invitations (22:1-14) is the last of three successive parables of judgment (beginning in 21:28) against Israel, especially her leadership. There are obvious connections among the three parables. Each has an “authority figure” (father, landowner, and king respectively). “Sons” or “a son” appear in all three. The second and third parables share the two groups of slaves and the severe judgment against those who oppose the son.

In today’s parable, the king represents God; the son, Jesus; and the wedding banquet, the time of divine-human celebration symbolized by the kingdom. The beautiful spousal imagery of the Lord (YHWH) and Israel (Hosea 2:19-20; Isaiah 54:4-8; 62:5) provides a rich, biblical backdrop. Today’s story incorporates two favourite Old and New Testament images: a feast and a marriage.

Matthew has provided many allegorical traits to today’s story, e.g. the burning of the city of the guests who refused the invitation (22:7), which corresponds to the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 AD. It has similarities with the preceding parable of the tenants: the sending of two groups of servants (22:3, 4), the murder of the servants (22:6), the punishment of the murderers (22:7), and the entrance of a new group into a privileged situation of which the others had proven themselves unworthy (22:8-10). The parable ends with a section that is very peculiar to Matthew (22:11-14) which some take as a distinct parable on its own.

Matthew’s parable appears in significantly different form in Luke 14:16-24. Today’s story most likely comes from “Q,” a hypothetical written source for the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. “Q” (short for the German Quelle or “source”) is defined as the “common” material found in Matthew and Luke but not in the Gospel of Mark. This ancient text supposedly contained the logia or quotations from Jesus.

The King’s Feast

In today’s story, the king has gone to great trouble preparing a wedding feast for his son, slaughtering enough oxen and fatted calves to feed several hundred people. It was not uncommon in Jesus’ day that invitations would be sent out in two instalments: first, a general invitation to a future event; then, on the day itself or just before, a “reminder” to come since everything was prepared for the celebration. Not only do the guests refuse, but some of them seize the king’s messengers and kill them. In response, the king sends his troops to burn their city. Then he sends out another invitation requesting that all persons – the “good” and the “bad” – be brought to the celebration.

The succession of invitations corresponds to God’s declaration of truth concerning his Kingdom and his Son – first to Israel and then to the Gentile nations. Matthew presents the Kingdom in its double aspect: already present and something that can be entered here and now (22:1-10); and something that will be possessed only by those present members who can stand the scrutiny of the final judgment (22:11-14).

Proper attire for the feast

Matthew’s addition of the guest without the wedding garment (22:11-14) can certainly leave the reader perplexed. I remember my first reaction to reading about this poor man without the proper vesture. Who is this king who dared to ask the poor man: “Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?” Was it not the king who commanded his slaves to go out to the highways and byways and bring in anyone they could find? How then could the king be so cold and harsh to someone who has been “rounded up” for the royal feast, without even having the time to procure clean and proper clothing?

It is important to recall that this story is an allegory and doesn’t necessarily follow normal ways of thinking and acting. Some scholars believe that the king provided the proper attire for his guests. It is not surprising then that the king becomes furious upon seeing a man improperly attired. This shows that this man deliberately refuses to receive the generous gesture of the king in providing proper attire.

The garment of righteousness and holiness

The parable of the wedding feast is not only a statement of God’s judgment on Israel but a warning to Matthew’s Church. As early as the second century, Irenaeus wrote that the wedding garment signified works of righteousness. The wedding garment signified repentance and a change of heart and mind. This is the condition for entrance into the Kingdom and must be continued in a life of good deeds.

The saying: “For many are called, but few are chosen” (22:14), should not be taken as a forecast of the proportion of the saved to the damned. Rather the saying is meant to encourage vigorous efforts to live the Christian life. The wedding feast is not the Church but the age to come. Matthew’s parable confronts us with the paradox of God’s free invitation to the banquet with no strings attached and God’s requirement of “putting on” something appropriate to that calling. Who are the many and the few concerning the wedding garment? Are there some people God doesn’t choose? How is being chosen different from being called?

The wedding garment of love

Let us consider the moving words of St. Augustine of Hippo in his sermon (#90) on today’s Gospel passage:

What is the wedding garment that the Gospel talks about? Very certainly, that garment is something that only the good have, those who are to participate in the feast… Could it be the sacraments? Baptism? Without baptism, no one comes to God, but some people receive baptism and do not come to God… Perhaps it is the altar or what a person receives at the altar? But in receiving the Lord’s body, some people eat and drink to their own condemnation (1 Corinthians 11:29). So what is it? Fasting? The wicked also fast. Going to church often? The wicked go to church just like others…

So what is this wedding garment? The apostle Paul tells us: “What we are aiming at… is the love that springs from a pure heart, a good conscience, and sincere faith” (1 Timothy 1:5). That is the wedding garment. Paul is not talking about just any kind of love, for one can often see dishonest people loving others… but one does not see among them this love “that springs from a pure heart, a good conscience, and sincere faith. ” Now that is the love that is the wedding garment.

The apostle Paul said: “If I speak with human tongues and angelic as well, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong, a clanging cymbal… If I have the gift of prophecy and, with full knowledge, comprehend all mysteries, if I have faith great enough to move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:1-2). He said that even if he had all that, without Christ “I am nothing.” It would be useless, because I can act in that way for love of glory… “If I have not love, it is of no use.” That is the wedding garment. Examine yourselves: if you have it, then come to the Lord’s banquet with confidence.

Invite everyone to the banquet

Let us consider section #22, “Evangelizers and Educators as Witnesses,” of the Lineamenta for the 2012 Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization:

The formation and concern needed to sustain those already engaged in evangelization and recruiting new forces should not be limited simply to practical preparation, albeit necessary. Instead, formation and pastoral care is predominantly to be spiritual in nature, namely, a school of faith, enlightened by the Gospel of Jesus Christ and under the guidance of the Spirit, which teaches people the implications of experiencing the Fatherhood of God. People are able to evangelize only when they have been evangelized and allow themselves to be evangelized, that is, renewed spiritually through a personal encounter and lived communion with Jesus Christ. Such people have the power to transmit the faith, as St. Paul the Apostle testifies: “I believed, and so I spoke” (2 Cor 4:13).

The new evangelization, then, which is primarily a task-to-be-done and a spiritual challenge, is the responsibility of all Christians who are in serious pursuit of holiness. In this context and with this understanding of formation, it will be useful to dedicate space and time to considering the institutions and means available to local Churches to make baptized persons more conscious of their duty in missionary work and evangelization. For our witness to be credible, as we respond to each of these areas requiring the new evangelization, we must know how to speak in ways that are intelligible to our times and proclaim, inside these areas, the reasons for our hope which bolsters our witness (cf. 1 Pt 3:15). Such a task is not accomplished without effort, but requires attentiveness, education and concern.

Questions for reflection this week

  1. Do our Christian communities plan pastoral activity with the specific aim of preaching conformity to the Gospel and conversion to Christianity?
  1. What priority have individual Christian communities placed on the commitment to attempt bold new ways of evangelization? What initiatives have been most successful in opening Christian communities to missionary work?
  1. How do the local churches view the role of proclamation and the necessity of giving greater importance to the genesis of faith and the pastoral programme for baptism?
  1. How are our Christian communities displaying their awareness of the urgency of recruiting, forming, and supporting persons to be evangelizers and educators through the witness of their lives?

[The readings for the Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time are: Isaiah 25:6-10a; Philippians 4:12-14, 19-20; and Matthew 22:1-14.]

This reflection first appeared on the Zenit International News Service in 2011 as well as on the Salt + Light Blog. The complete collection of reflections for Year B, entitled “Words made Flesh,” is now available in book form through our online store. Book editions for Year A and C reflections are coming soon.

The Original Dynamic Duo


During my research for the Church Alive series I came across this epic CNS file photo of Pope Paul VI and Cardinal Karol Wojtyla. The photo’s caption reads, “Paul VI, who served in Poland during his early priesthood, held the future Pope John Paul II in high regard.” Not only do they both look like don dadas, but they’re the original dynamic duo when it comes to the Second Vatican Council. Although John XXIII called the Council, Paul VI was the person who actually did all the work. He’s responsible for promulgating the major documents that came out of the Council. Pope John Paul II, moreover, was the person who enacted the Council’s vision throughout his reign as one of the longest serving pontiffs in Church history.

So if you want to know what the New Evangelization is, just take a page out of either one of these men’s lives. I highly recommend Pope Paul VI’s Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi: although this document was penned just under forty years ago, it reads as if it was written yesterday.

And if you really want to up your game, check out the Church Alive series! This is a sure way to level up when it comes to this huge and sometimes intimidating topic. Included in our DVD set is a 75-page study guide which is very handy literally and figuratively: its small and fits in the palm of your hand and it gives you all the goods like bios, resources, synopses, and study questions.

As Robin would say: Holy History, Batman!

 

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Credit: CNS file photo

Following Jesus implies suffering and a cross

Get Behind Me cropped

Twenty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A – August 31, 2014

Today’s Gospel from Matthew 16:21-27 presents us with the first prediction of Jesus’ passion. It follows the story told in Mark 8:31-33 and serves as a corrective to the misunderstanding of Jesus’ Messiahship as solely one of glory and triumph. Matthew’s account of the first passion prediction is also about the sufferings of the Son of Man. In the New Testament Greek text, Matthew’s formulation is almost identical with the pre-Pauline fragment of the kerygma in 1 Corinthians 15:4 and also with Hosea 6:2, which many take to be the Old Testament background to the confession that Jesus was raised on the third day.

By his addition of the words “from that time on” (16:21), Matthew has emphasized that Jesus’ revelation of his coming suffering and death marks a new phase of the Gospel. Immediately following Peter’s confession at Caesarea Philippi, Jesus “began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised” (16:21). We are told that in response to Jesus’ statement, Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you” (16:22). But Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things” (16:23).

Peter’s refusal

Peter’s refusal to accept Jesus’ predicted suffering and death is seen as a satanic attempt to deflect Jesus from his God-appointed course, and the disciple is addressed in terms that recall Jesus’ dismissal of the devil in the temptation account (Matthew 4:10: “Get away, Satan!”). Peter’s satanic purpose is emphasized by Matthew’s addition to the Marcan source of the words “You are a stumbling block to me.” A readiness to follow Jesus even to giving up one’s life for him is the condition for true discipleship, which will be repaid by the Lord at the final judgment (16:24-28).

What is behind Peter’s refusal to accept Jesus’ suffering and death? Peter gives voice to the bewilderment and dismay of the other apostles at Jesus’ announcement of his imminent passion. “This cannot be, Lord! This should not be! It just isn’t fair or right!” Such a reaction portrays Peter’s and our own inability to understand the mystery of God at work in Jesus, and in our lives. Peter and the others are confronted with the harsh reality of God’s designs, completely unacceptable from the perspective of human logic. To undergo great suffering at the hands of the religious authorities, to take up a cross, to be killed – is this all part of Jesus’ package? Are there no incentives or benefits? Wouldn’t it be better to erase the cross and suffering from the whole plan? Is it really necessary? Is Jesus experiencing some form of depression in saying these things?

From “Rock” to scandalon

Just last week at Caesarea Philippi, Peter was called “Rock.” Now he is called scandalon – a stumbling block or stone! Jesus reminds Peter that he understands nothing of the reality and mystery of God’s designs for him and for us!

Jesus tells his disciples if they want to become his followers, they must deny themselves, and take up their cross, and follow him (16:24). What does it mean, “to deny oneself”? To deny someone is to disown him and to deny oneself is to disown oneself as the centre of one’s existence. Think for a moment of Peter who would later deny his friend and Lord – “I do not know him!” (26:74) It means precisely that for us as well. To deny myself means that I no longer know myself, I no longer take my own life into account, I no longer think of myself – I am no longer at the centre of my universe. But the action does not stop there: the whole force of this injunction rests on Jesus’ invitation “Follow me.” Everything said before and after are the necessary prerequisites for being able to love Jesus and stay with him, and to continue staying with him.

Following Jesus

This teaching of Jesus to the small group of the Twelve can be summarized as follows: “Whoever has accepted the personal call to follow me, must accept me as I am.” Following Jesus implies suffering and a cross! The mark of the Messiah is to become the mark of his disciples! They are to get behind him and follow him as he goes up to Jerusalem.

That which gives fullness of meaning to the cross is to carry it behind Jesus, not in a journey of anguished solitude, hopeless wandering or rebellion, but rather in a journey sustained and nourished by the presence of the Lord. Jesus asks us to courageously choose a life similar to his own. Those who would follow Jesus cannot avoid suffering. God’s ways are not our ways – today we are encouraged to conform our ways to God’s.

Discerning God’s will

Since Christ marks the termination of the Mosaic Law as the primary source of guidance for God’s people, the Apostle Paul explains in his letter to the Romans (12:1-2) how Christians can function – in the light of the gift of justification through faith – in their relation to one another and to the state. The Mosaic code included elaborate directions on sacrifices and other cultic observances. The Gospel, however, invites believers to present their bodies as a living sacrifice (12:1). Instead of being limited by specific legal maxims, Christians are liberated for the exercise of good judgment as they are confronted with the many and varied decisions required in the course of daily life. Paul invites Christians to be “transformed by the renewal of their minds, so that they may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect” (12:2).

Grasping the mystery of Christ

In his homily at the concluding Mass of World Youth Day at the Cuatro Vientos Airforce base in Madrid, Spain on Sunday, August 21, 2011, Pope Emeritus Benedict said this of our belief in Jesus Christ:

Faith is more than just empirical or historical facts; it is an ability to grasp the mystery of Christ’s person in all its depth. Yet faith is not the result of human effort, of human reasoning, but rather a gift of God: “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven.” Faith starts with God, who opens his heart to us and invites us to share in his own divine life. Faith does not simply provide information about who Christ is; rather, it entails a personal relationship with Christ, a surrender of our whole person, with all our understanding, will and feelings, to God’s self-revelation. So Jesus’ question: “But who do you say that I am?”, is ultimately a challenge to the disciples to make a personal decision in his regard. Faith in Christ and discipleship are strictly interconnected.

And, since faith involves following the Master, it must become constantly stronger, deeper and more mature, to the extent that it leads to a closer and more intense relationship with Jesus. Peter and the other disciples also had to grow in this way, until their encounter with the Risen Lord opened their eyes to the fullness of faith.

Dear young people, today Christ is asking you the same question which he asked the Apostles: “Who do you say that I am?” Respond to him with generosity and courage, as befits young hearts like your own. Say to him: “Jesus, I know that you are the Son of God, who have given your life for me. I want to follow you faithfully and to be led by your word. You know me and you love me. I place my trust in you and I put my whole life into your hands. I want you to be the power that strengthens me and the joy which never leaves me.”

The Church’s fundamental mission

Returning to the Lineamenta for the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization that took place in October 2012, we find a striking connection between today’s Gospel reading and section #10, entitled “The First Evangelization Pastoral Solicitude and the New Evangelization”:

The new evangelization is the name given to the Church’s project of undertaking anew her fundamental mission, her identity and reason for existence. Consequently, it is not limited to delineated, well-defined regions only, but is a way to explain and put into practice the apostolic legacy in and for our times. In the project of the new evangelization, the Church desires to bring her unique message into today’s world and the present discussion, namely, to proclaim the Kingdom of God, begun in Christ Jesus. No part of the Church is exempt from this project. The Christian Churches of ancient origin must deal with the problem of the many who have abandoned the practice of the faith; the younger Churches, through the process of inculturation, must continually take measures allowing them to bring the Gospel to everyday life, a process which not only purifies and elevates culture, but, above all, opens culture to the newness of the Gospel. Generally speaking, every Christian community must rededicate itself to its programme of pastoral care which seems to become more difficult and in danger of falling into a routine, and thus little able to communicate its original aims and goals.

A new evangelization is synonymous with mission, requiring the capacity to set out anew, go beyond boundaries and broaden horizons. The new evangelization is the opposite of self-sufficiency, a withdrawal into oneself, a status quo mentality and an idea that pastoral programmes are simply to proceed as they did in the past. Today, a “business as usual” attitude can no longer be the case. Some local Churches, already engaged in renewal, reconfirm the fact that now is the time for the Church to call upon every Christian community to evaluate their pastoral practice on the basis of the missionary character of their programmes and activities.

Questions for reflection this week

1) What have been the principal obstacles and the most challenging efforts to raise the question of God in today’s world? What have been the results of asking such a question?

2) Have I ever “rebuked” God for an outcome or situation I wasn’t expecting? In the end, what did I learn from this experience? Did I grow from it?

3) Do my expectations of who Jesus is and what he wants from me keep me closed and resistant to anything beyond those boundaries? How do I form my ideas of Christ and His will? What are they grounded in – the truths transmitted by the Catholic faith, or something else?

4) When do I make sacrifices for my faith, my family, or others? Are they done grudgingly or with an attitude of joy?

[The readings for the Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time are: Jeremiah 20:7-9; Roman 12:1-2; and Matthew 16:21-27.]

This reflection first appeared on the Zenit International News Service in 2011 as well as on the Salt + Light Blog. The complete collection of reflections for Year B, entitled “Words made Flesh,” is now available in book form through our online store. Book editions for Year A and C reflections are coming soon.

Do Monkeys Go To Heaven?

Do Monkeys Go To Heaven?

“Great are the works of the Lord; they are pondered by all who delight in them.” Psalm 111:2

Do Monkeys Go to Heaven?  And by that I don’t mean you and me. Real monkeys, you know the ones that climb in trees or apparently pose for selfies (true story).  Well, that’s the question posed by a new book by Fr. John McCarthy, SJ an expert in boreal forest ecology. The book is a compilation of his musings on everything from Our Lady to monkeys, and everything in between.  Although the title of the book suggests something light and cheeky, I’d liken reading this book to the delight of eating a chocolate cake (only to realize it was actually a bowl of bran).  The ol’ bait and switch, in a good way.  I enjoyed it so much that we’ll feature Fr. John McCarthy and his book Do Monkeys Go to Heaven on an upcoming episode of Catholic Focus, so stay tuned for that!

Even though concerns about the environment are pressing, let’s get real, the minute you pull out a long list of encyclicals one should read (and no, Church nerds I’m not talking to you here) most people’s first reaction is “ain’t nobody got time for that. No matter how much you admire the Popes, or the Church, or monkeys.

And herein lies the rub…

Although these encyclicals are great, can you imagine reading a 32 page blog or 60 000 character tweet?  Consider today’s mediums, the reality is people’s attention spans are growing shorter and shorter.   When it comes to the written medium, it’s a situation of diminishing returns; the more one writes, the less one is inclined to read.  So perhaps, it’s time to the get back the basics. As St. Paul says, there are two books by which we can come to know God, the book of nature and the good book.  And what better way to contemplate the divine than with the rediscovery of awe?  I suspect that’s what Jesus meant when he invited us to become like children; it’s an invitation to childlike curiosity and wonder at the goodness of the created order. It’s only when you see how smart ravens really are, or delight in the superb complexity of a beetle that your imagination gets fired up and you start asking the really important questions – why do we exist, and how did we get here?  It’s then that you intuit that creation is precious and fragile and that our fate as human beings is intricately intertwined with the environment – but enough from me; I’ll leave the last word to the Pixies.

Okay I have to add one more thing: another great resource for those who want to get a crash course in how the new evangelization can be a bridge between the church’s theology of creation and the growing concern for the environment is the Church Alive Series Episode 12. We’ve even short listed the encyclicals, in our super-nifty study guide, just in case you wanted to get into the meaty stuff. We promise you won’t be disappointed!

Thanks to Cardinal Donald Wuerl

sebastian with wuerl

 

The following is the thanks expressed by Sebastian Gomes to Cardinal Donald Wuerl on behalf of Salt + Light Television and Assumption University for his talk, which made up part of the Faith and Culture series presented by Assumption University.

Thank you very much Your Eminence…

By way of conclusion, I have the privilege of thanking the Cardinal for his wonderfully insightful lecture.

On the night of February 28th (when Pope Benedict officially stepped down from office) I had the opportunity to interview Cardinal Wuerl, who was one of the few Cardinals who made himself available to the media for comment that night.

The mood was incredibly heavy.  People were walking slowly through St. Peter’s Square and looking up at the Apostolic Palace where the Pope’s study and bedroom are.  Typically the lights are on until about 10 o’clock.  But, of course, the they were off that night and the apartment was empty.  Everyone in Rome felt empty, and uncertain about the future.  We didn’t know what was going to happen, but we knew things were going to be different.

I asked Cardinal Wuerl, “How do you feel, having witnessed all of this, knowing Pope Benedict, and now turning to the daunting task of electing his successor?”

To my surprise, he looked at me and smiled and said, “Sebastian, I have so much hope at this moment!”  I was taken aback!  I said to myself, “really?!  I wasn’t expecting to hear that.”  05 Sebastian thanking Cardinal Wuerl

He continued, “What Pope Benedict has taught us through this incredibly humble gesture, is that we can and should do things differently.  That we don’t have to be afraid, because the Lord is with us.”

Through the whole process of the papal transition, that for me, was one of the most profound lessons in ecclesiology.  Even in that sad, empty moment, when nothing was certain, you taught us that a deep faith is always hopeful, always forward looking, always focused.

Again tonight you’ve shared your deep wisdom and faith with us:

-          The need to renew our faith, especially in our day-to-day activities

-          The importance of content: that there is a profound substance in the Revelation that is carried forward through history in the Apostolic Tradition

-          For reminding us that we are very concretely connected to Jesus

Recognizing simplicity, clarity, confidence, humility and joy in knowing God loves each of us and every person in this world is a good place to start when it comes to the New Evangelization.

So, on behalf of Assumption University and Salt and Light Television, I thank you for your brief but wonderful visit; for your tireless work for the Gospel and for the Church; for being a shepherd of the New Evangelization.  Thank you!

The Challenges and Joys of the New Evangelization

Wuerl

By His Eminence

Donald Cardinal Wuerl

Archbishop Of Washington

 

Christian Culture Series

Assumption University

Windsor, Canada

Sunday, December 1, 2013, 3:00 P.M.

            Before I begin these reflections on “The Challenges and Joys of the New Evangelization” I want to thank Father Thomas Rosica, C.S.B., the President of Assumption University, for the invitation to be a part of this series.  I also want to express my great admiration for him, his extraordinary ministry in the Church, his leadership of Salt and Light Media and his unique role in the recently concluded Synod on the New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith.

There is a very real sense in which Father Rosica and Salt and Light Media were truly the voice and vision to the world of  02 Sebastian Cardinal Wuerl Fr. Rosica 1 the Synod on the New Evangelization.  I also want to recognize Mr. Sebastian Gomes, Salt and Light Producer.  I am grateful to Assumption University for providing me this opportunity to speak about the New Evangelization.

We have three realities that help us focus on what is the New Evangelization and how it is lived today.  The first of these obviously is the Synod on the New Evangelization that was held in Rome in October of 2012. 

Secondly, we must see the efforts of the New Evangelization now through the lens of Pope Francis who assumed the office of Bishop of Rome and Shepherd of the Universal Church in March of 2013.  Finally, we have the document that reflects the work of the Synod and the mind of Pope Francis, the recently published Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium.

Nine months ago the whole world was focused on the chimney at the Sistine Chapel in Rome.  Some 5,500 journalists were accredited to the Holy See as world media awaited the white smoke. 

 Between the time that the smoke appeared and Pope Francis stepped onto the balcony of Saint Peter’s Basilica about an hour passed.   Yet the Square was filled with people chanting, Viva il Papa! – Long live the Pope!”  Even before they knew who he was the crowds were elated because, once again, we have a Pope.  Their voices highlighted the understanding of Catholics around the world of the importance of the Pope.  He is the link of continuity connecting us today with Peter and therefore with Jesus, his Gospel, his death and Resurrection.

 But a whole new dimension of appreciation for the Pope became apparent with Pope Francis’ new style.  He began with a simple “Buona sera” – “Good evening” that has had a ripple effect through the Church. 

 This engaging informal style is captured in scene after scene as our Holy Father wades into the crowds of pilgrims at Saint Peter’s Square blessing the sick, hugging children, and joining in “selfies,” the picture taken with him by people holding their own phone camera. 

 Everywhere we see the Pope’s smile reflecting his joy.  It is not that he is giving us new teaching about the Gospel.  Rather he is showing us a new way of doing the Gospel. 

 But the wider background for everything that Pope Francis proclaims, that the New Evangelization is all about and that Evangelii gaudium announces with insistence is the challenging secularism that dominates modern culture.  In his first apostolic exhortation, Pope Francis notes some challenges of today’s world.  “The process of secularization tends to reduce the faith and the Church to sphere of the private and personal.  Furthermore, by completely rejecting the transcendent, it has produced a growing deterioration of ethics, a weakening of the sense of personal and collective sin, and a steady increase in relativism” (64). 

It is against this conditioning of human thought summed up in words like “secularism” and “relativism” that the proclamation of the Gospel – the New Evangelization proceeds.

 A number of years ago I was invited to speak at the Catholic Center at Harvard University.  The designated theme was “The Role of Faith in a Pluralistic Society.”  At the conclusion of my presentation, a man who self-identified as an atheist and who taught in the law school was the first to present a question.  He asked, “What do you people think you bring to our society?”  The reference to “you people” was to the front row of the audience that was made up of representatives of a variety of religious traditions all of whom were in their appropriate identifiable robes. 

Since he was a lawyer, I asked if he would mind if I answered his question with a question of my own.  When he nodded in agreement, I asked: “What do you think the world would be like if it were not for the voices of all of those religious traditions represented in the hall?  What would it be like if we did not hear voices in the midst of the community saying, you shall not kill, you shall not steal, you shall not bear false witness?  What would our culture be like had we not heard religious imperatives such as love your neighbor as yourself, do unto others as you would have them do to you?  How much more harsh would our land be if we did not grow up hearing, blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, blessed are the merciful, blessed are the peacemakers?  What would the world be like had we never been reminded that someday we will have to answer to God for our actions?”

To his credit, the man who asked the question smiled broadly and said, “It would be a mess!”

What the Church Offers

The Church brings what it has always brought an invitation to faith, an encounter with Christ, a whole way of living.

Yet the Christian way of life and the Gospel vision of right and wrong, virtue and God’s love all seem to be eclipsed by a strong secular voice that comes even from some within the Church that find the Church’s perennial teaching somehow distasteful. 

So pervasive is this “other message” that today many never even get to hear the truth, richness and joy of the authentic Gospel of Christ.

The Context of Our Faith Experience

and Proclamation

The context then of the New Evangelization and the very reason why we repropose our Catholic faith to the world around us and of which we are a part is, as successive popes have indicated, the secularism that is now rapidly enveloping our society and our Western culture.

Pope Francis has noted the spiritual poverty of our time, which is the “tyranny of relativism,” as well as one of the most dangerous pitfalls of our time, “a one-dimensional vision of the human person, according to which man is reduced to what he produces and consumes” (March 20, 2013).  Shortly after his election he said, “We know how much violence has been produced in recent history by the attempt to eliminate God and the divine from the horizon of humanity, and we experience the value of witnessing in our societies to the original opening to transcendence that is inherent in the human heart” (March 20, 2013).

These challenges must be overcome by a fullness of faith which overflows into the very society in which we live. As the Pope said, “Only when their faith permeates every aspect of their lives do Christians become truly open to the transforming power of the Gospel.”

New Evangelization – A Definition

 It is against this background – a diminished appreciation of the faith – that we were called to a Year of Faith and an ongoing New Evangelization.

The New Evangelization is a term that has become very familiar in the Church today.  Blessed John Paul II began, more than three decades ago, to speak of the need for a new period of evangelization.  He described it as announcement of the Good News about Jesus that is “new in ardor, method and expression” (Address to the Latin American Episcopal Conference (CELAM), March 9, 1983). 

Pope Benedict XVI affirmed that the discernment of “the new demands of evangelization” is a “prophetic” task of the Supreme Pontiff (Caritas in veritate, 12).  He emphasized that “the entire activity of the Church is an expression of love” that seeks to evangelize the world (Deus caritas est, 19). 

Likewise, in continuity with his predecessors, Pope Francis calls us to the work of the New Evangelization.  This was also a major initiative of his when he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires.  As in his ministry there, already we can see as a hallmark in this papacy the emphasis that the Church “go out” into the world, to not stay wrapped up within herself, but to go out to give to people the beauty of the Gospel, the amazement of the encounter with Jesus.  I think we are going to have, as we move forward, a time of blessing, a time of renewal, of looking to the future to bring that New Evangelization to the hearts of people we know.

From October 7 through October 28, 2012, in response to the Pope’s invitation, over 250 bishops from around the world, together with nearly 100 men and women, representative of the Church, religious communities and expertise in various related areas, gathered for the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith.

At the Mass on Sunday, October 28 at Saint Peter’s Basilica for the closing of the synod, Pope Benedict XVI reflected on some aspects of the New Evangelization.  He spoke of the three areas and dimensions of the work of sharing and living the Gospel. 

In Evangelii gaudium, Pope Francis quotes at length from Proposition 7 of the Synod on the New Evangelization.  He also quotes from the homily of Pope Benedict XVI at the Mass for the Conclusion of the Synod.  The New Evangelization, he said, “applies, in the first instance, to the ordinary pastoral ministry that must be more animated by the fire of the Spirit.”  We shall return to this point when we look at all of the ways in which we can be engaged in our own parish life, in renewing our faith and helping to fan into flame the embers of the Holy Spirit that animates the Church.

The second aspect of the New Evangelization, the Pope points out, is the Church’s task “to evangelize, to proclaim the message of salvation to those who do not know Jesus Christ.”  This we traditionally refer to as the “missio ad gentes” or “mission to the nations.” We all recall the terms “foreign missions” and “mission lands.”  The Pope went on to say that there were still many regions “whose inhabitants await with lively expectation, sometimes without being fully aware of it, the first proclamation of the Gospel.”  The essential missionary work continues as it always has.

A new dimension of the misso ad gentes is, of course, the realization that many of the people from lands that were once described as “foreign missions” now live with us – in our neighborhoods – next door to us.

The third aspect, the Pope notes in his homily, concerns “the baptized whose lives do not reflect the demands of baptism…the Church is particularly concerned that they should encounter Jesus Christ anew, rediscover the joy of faith and return to religious practice in the community of the faithful.”  We all know people – friends, colleagues, even family members – who are a part of this group.

At its heart the New Evangelization is the reproposing of the encounter with the Risen Lord, his Gospel and his Church with those who no longer find the Church’s message engaging.  Pope Francis, in his apostolic exhortation says, “I never tire of repeating those words of Benedict XVI which take us to the very heart of the Gospel: ‘Being a Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction’ (Deus Caritas Est)” (7).

As we look at how we repropose the encounter with Jesus and how we can take it upon ourselves that responsibility, I believe there are three distinct, but interrelated stages the renewal of our faith both intellectually and affectively,               a new confidence in the truth of our faith and a willingness to share it with others.

The New Evangelization begins with each of us taking it upon ourselves to renew once again our understanding of the faith and our appropriation of it in a way that embraces the Gospel message and its application today.  The Gospel offers humanity a different way of seeing life and the world around us.  We bring a fuller vision of life than that offered by an individualistic secular society that lives as if God did not exist.

In the Sermon on the Mount presented in Matthew’s Gospel, we hear of a new way of life and how it involves the merciful, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, those who mourn, the peacemakers, the poor in spirit.  Here we learn of the call to be salt of the earth and a light set on a lamp stand.  Later in that same Gospel, we hear the extraordinary dictum that we should see in one another the very presence of Christ.  Jesus’ disciples are challenged to envision a world where not only the hungry are fed, the thirsty are given drink, the stranger is welcomed and the naked are clothed, but also most amazingly sins are forgiven and eternal life is pledged.

For the Christian, there is a whole new way of seeing reality – experiencing life.  We see with the eyes of faith and thus experience so much more.  It is precisely through that lens that we see the world around us and seek to invite others to experience with us the joy of Jesus Christ. 

In his apostolic exhortation, Pope Francis puts it this way, “All of [the practical implications for the Church’s mission today] help give shape to a definite style of evangelization which I ask you to adopt in every activity which you undertake.  In this way, we can take up, amid our daily efforts, the biblical exhortation: ‘Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say: Rejoice’ (Phil 4:4) (18).”   

When we speak of faith, we use the word in two ways, really. We use it to speak of the act by which we place our trust in God. We accept God’s word; we accept Jesus. We “have faith.” Some people call this trust a “leap” of faith, because there is no way to prove that it is actually God who is speaking to us. We can cite evidence and point to the authority of reputable people—saints and scholars—but we’re never going to be able to demonstrate with mathematical precision that the Almighty has spoken to us in revelation. We choose to trust God’s ways of communicating.

But faith has another sense. We use the term to mean, not only the act of believing, but also the facts we believe in. Thus, we speak of “the Catholic faith,” or simply “the faith.”

It is one thing to say, “I place my faith in Jesus. I believe him.” But faith requires more. Faith requires us to ask the follow-up question: Well, what did Jesus say? What is the content of the message that he revealed and taught? And that brings us back to the Creed.

 Every Sunday at Mass, we recite the words of the Nicene Creed. Each of us makes a personal and public commitment of faith, in the presence of our neighbors. We say, “I believe” to a rather long list of demanding propositions. “I believe . . .” in one God who is three divine persons, in a fatherly God who relates to me as his child; in a God who became man, in a God who continues to act through the Church, in a God who will raise me, body and soul, from the dead.

 When we stop to think about any one of these propositions, we can identify with the man in the Gospel who “cried out” to Jesus, “I do believe, help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24). For we know, as that man knew, that we all need help. The truths of our faith are demanding. They are more than words, more than boxes we must check so that we can call ourselves Catholic. They are living truths that are meant to make a difference in our lives.

Faith has a language all of its own.  It speaks to us of a realm, a world, a reality all of its own.  We should not be surprised that when we try to get beyond this immediate material world into the transcendent world of the Spirit, we find our words inadequate.  So we have to use special words with unique meaning. 

Precisely in order to understand what it is that Jesus is revealing to us, we turn to his Church and the continuous apostolic tradition in the Body of Christ to clarify, reaffirm and assure us of what it is Jesus says to us.

A deepened appreciation for our faith should lead us to a new level of confidence in its truth.  The words of the Gospel are the words of everlasting life.  The teaching of the Church is God’s word applied to our day.  We need to be confident that we stand in the truth so that we are not shaken by every challenge to the Gospel message. 

The wide spread and deep seeded hesitancy among Christians to speak up and even stand up for the faith, for our Christian heritage and the values it brings to our world, is one of the marked signs of our time.  Or at least it is part of the inheritance of several generations of questioning the validity of our message that has left many Christians shy. 

It is precisely the recovery of confidence in the truth of the Gospel that is a part of the new Pentecost we are experiencing today and the partial explanation for why so many young people are once again turning to the Church, her Gospel, her message.  

Out of our knowledge of the faith and our confidence in it, we should be prepared to share it with others.  This can take place in many ways.

We are called to re-propose Christ as the answer to a world staggering under the weight of so many unanswered questions of the heart. We are called to be missionaries in the circumstances of our day with all of its challenges, within the context of the lives of the people who receive the message.

Theological Foundations

Because the New Evangelization seeks to increase people’s understanding of the faith, its theological foundations are very important.  These foundation blocks are all the more significant today because of the need to bring back into equilibrium the balance between the proper understanding of the individual and the correct appreciation of the obligations of the collective society in civil terms and ecclesial communion in spiritual terms.

Among the theological foundation blocks, I would include the Anthropological, the Christological, the Ecclesiological and the Soteriological foundations which we will briefly examine.

(1) Anthropological Foundation of the New Evangelization

Human beings, made male and female, are by their nature social beings, created in the image and likeness of the Triune God who is Love and Truth.  Thus, we are made to live in relationship and community.

Thus, the New Evangelization must point to the dignity of the human person, whose inherent nature is not to exist in solitude, as merely an individual closed-in on himself, but in solidarity with others.  In short, we call for an authentic humanism, for man to be true to his nature, which is to love and be loved in truth.

The fact that each person is created in the image and likeness of God forms the basis for declaring, for example, the universality of human rights and the harmony that should exist among peoples.  We must speak with conviction to a doubting civil society about the truth and integrity of realities such as marriage, family, the natural moral order, and objective right and wrong.

(2) Christological Foundation of the New Evangelization

“Who do you say that I am?” asked Jesus.  Simon Peter said in reply, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:13-16)

The New Evangelization is the re-introduction, the re-proposing, of Christ, the center of our faith – who Christ is, his relationship to the Father, his divinity and humanity, the reality of his death and Resurrection, and his sending of the Holy Spirit.  We are summoned to stand as one with Peter and, like him, profess that Jesus is Lord.

Our proclamation is focused on Jesus, his Gospel and his way.  Christian life is defined by an encounter with Jesus.  When our Lord first came among us, he offered a new way of living.  The excitement spread as God’s Son, who is also one of us, announced the coming of his kingdom.

The Gospel that Jesus Christ came to reveal is not information about God, but rather God himself in our midst. God made himself visible, audible, tangible.  In return, he seeks our love.

(3) The Ecclesiological Foundation of the New Evangelization

 The New Evangelization must also clearly explain the necessity of the Church for salvation.  The Church is not just one way among many to reach God, all of them equally valid.  While the Lord does wish all to be saved, he specifically established the Church to continue his living and saving presence. 

Our understanding of the nature and significance of the Church explains why the missionary activity of the Church is essential to her identity.  The Second Vatican Council’s Decree on the Church’s Missionary Activity (Ad Gentes) and subsequent documents such as Evangelii Nuntiandi (1975) of Pope Paul VI and Redemptoris Missio (1990) of Blessed John Paul II all insist that essential to the mission of the Church is the work of bringing every individual into communion with the divine persons revealed in Jesus Christ. 

In Evangelii gaudium, Pope Francis tells us, “The Church’s closeness to Jesus is part of a common journey; “communion and mission are profoundly interconnected.”  In fidelity to the example of the Master, it is vitally important for the Church today to go forth and preach the Gospel to all: to all places, on all occasions, without hesitation, reluctance or fear” (23). 

The Pope goes on to say, “The Church which ‘goes forth’ is a community of missionary disciples who take the first step, who are involved and supportive, who bear fruit and rejoice” (24).   

(4) Soterological Foundations of the New Evangelization

Intrinsic to understanding God’s presence with us today is understanding what we mean by his kingdom.  The kingdom of God is manifest in his Church, but will reach its final fullness only in glory at the end of time.  Thus, even though it is unfashionable to do so, we must speak the truth regarding sin and judgment after death, with the possibility of hell, but we also speak the truth of heaven through redemption in Christ, that God sent his Son into this world to offer us forgiveness of sin and new life.

Where the Work of the New Evangelization Takes Place:

Particular Churches and Parishes

 The Holy Spirit is the principal agent of evangelization, and pours out many gifts to guide the Church in her mission.  The New Evangelization impels all of us to use this grace to discover fresh resources, to open original avenues and to summon new strength to advance the Good News of the Lord.

This brings us to a reflection on where, within the Church, the work of the New Evangelization takes place.  One of these places deserves special mention: the particular church, or diocese and its expression in the parish. 

Parishes, gathered in communion with the bishop, are natural centers of the New Evangelization because they “offer opportunities for dialogue among men, for listening to and announcing the Word of God, for organic catechesis, for training in charity, for prayer, adoration and joyous Eucharistic celebrations” (Prop. 26).

Across this country, parishes need to be invited into a process whereby they collectively undertake a review of their vitality.  In the Archdiocese of Washington, we have initiated a parish-by-parish self-evaluation around five principles of ecclesial life: worship, education, service, community and stewardship.  Collectively we call these points the “Indicators of Vitality.” 

For sure the light of Christ already shines brightly in each parish.  Yet all of us recognize there is more to be done.  Our efforts at a New Evangelization call us to look deeper into the vitality of our faith as it is expressed and lived in our parishes and in the homes of the faithful. 

 Penance – The Sacrament of the New Evangelization

The Sacrament of Penance looms large in the renewal of the life of the Church and particularly in proclaiming the Good News.  The forgetfulness about God that is the result of secularism has included a dramatic decrease over the years in people going to Confession.  Accordingly, the Synod Fathers saw Penance as the sacrament of the New Evangelization because it offers us “a new and personal encounter with Jesus Christ, as well as a new encounter with the Church, facilitating a full reconciliation through the forgiveness of sins.  Here the penitent encounters Jesus and at the same time he or she experiences a deeper appreciation of himself and herself” (Prop. 33).

Pope Francis tells us, “Now is the time to say to Jesus: ‘Lord, I have let myself be deceived; in a thousand ways I have shunned your love, yet here I am once more, to renew my covenant with you.  I need you.  Save me one again, Lord, take me once more into your redeeming embrace.’”  Pope Francis goes on to remind us, “Christ, who told us to forgive one another ‘seventy times seven’ (Mt 18:22) has given us his example: he has forgiven us seventy times seven” (3).

A particularly effective pastoral initiative is entitled “The Light is On for You.”  At the heart of this program is the commitment of a diocesan Church to see that on a specific evening during the week at a given time, confessions will be heard in all of the churches across the diocese.  In this way, the people will have an opportunity no matter where they are to avail themselves of this sacrament.

In a public way, the campaign highlights the importance of the sacrament of Reconciliation and our need for God’s help, love and mercy.  Some people have experienced the joy of returning to the sacrament after not having gone to Confession for decades.  That symbol of the light on in churches provides people with a beacon of hope, reconciliation, and healing.

What are some of the qualities required for the new evangelizer today?

Many can be identified, but four stand out: (1) boldness or courage, (2) connectedness to the Church, (3) a sense of urgency, and (4) joy.

In the Acts of the Apostles, the word that describes the Apostles after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost is “bold.”  Peter boldly stands up and preaches the Good News of the Resurrection. Paul boldly announces the Word in frenetic movement around the world.  Today, the New Evangelization must show a similar boldness born of confidence in Christ.  We cannot be lukewarm, but must be on fire with the Spirit. 

The new evangelizers also need a connectedness with the one Church, her one Gospel and her pastoral presence.  The authentication of our message of everlasting life depends on our communion with the Church and solidarity with her pastors.  In this, you – the members of the Ordinariate – can provide, and have already provided, an especially credible witness from your steadfast efforts at unity in the Body of Christ.

Another needed quality is a sense of urgency, as we see in Mary’s Visitation to Elizabeth.  The Gospel recounts how Mary set off in haste on a long and difficult journey.  There is no time to be lost because the mission is so important.

Finally, when we look around and see the vast field waiting for us to sow seeds of new life, we must do so with joy.  Our message should be one that inspires others to follow us along the path to the kingdom of God.  Ours is a message to Rejoice! Christ is risen, Christ is with us!

Evangelii gaudium begins with the announcement, “The Joy of the Gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus…In this exhortation I wish to encourage the Christian faithful to embark upon a new chapter of evangelization marked by this joy…” (1). 

Pope Francis keeps lifting up this theme over and over again.  He tells us how Jesus’ “message brings us joy: ‘I have said these things to you, so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.’ (Jn 15:11)”   The Pope quotes Jesus saying “‘But I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you’ (Jn 16:22)” (5).  That joy must be our joy. 

 Conclusion

This is a new moment in the life of the Church, a new Pentecost. It is our turn now, to reinvigorate our faith, not only today, but every day and every year, and to share it with others.

Always be open to the gift of the Spirit.  It is the movement of the Spirit that has led you along this path, it is the nudging of the Spirit that brings you to this moment and it is in the outpouring of the Spirit that you will walk united with Christ at the service of his Bride the Church.

It is our turn in the long history of the Church simply to believe and proclaim: Christ has died, Christ is risen,             Christ will come again.

Thank you.

 

THE NEW EVANGELIZATION: RESPONSIBILITIES AND CHALLENGES FOR THE AMERICAN CONTINENT

chaput

The following is the full text of a talk given by Archbishop Charles J. Chaput (OFM) of Philadelphia, at a conference in Mexico City titled “Our Lady of Guadalupe, Star of the New Evangelization on the American Continent.”  

Sixteen years ago today, November 16, I began my work as a delegate to the Special Assembly for America of the Synod of Bishops. Those weeks in Rome so many years ago, serving with brothers from around the hemisphere, were an extraordinary education and blessing. They’ve shaped the course of my life as a bishop ever since. Thanks to that meeting, I have on my desk at home a picture of Our Lady, Undoer of Knots, a gift from the then-coadjutor archbishop of Buenos Aires. As some of you may know, he has since gone on to other duties.

A lot has changed since 1997. The world is a very different place. For the Church in America, much of the change has been good. Dialogue between bishops North and South has grown. So has cooperation across borders. We differ in language and culture. But these differences are a gift, not an obstacle. As bishops, I think we understand as never before that our common Catholic faith is a bridge that abolishes the distance between us. The only thing that can separate us is our own unwillingness to live what we claim to believe about Jesus Christ and to strengthen the unity we find in him.

We need each other as brothers. And we need to remember that God is always with his Church. The millions of people, especially the young, who greeted Pope Francis so joyfully in Brazil this year were not a mirage. TheyPilgrims kneel in prayer during the closing Mass of World Youth Day on Copacabana beach were not an accident. They were the voice and soul of a continent. The human heart in every age, in every corner of the world, hungers for something more than itself — for something or Someone beyond the horizon of this life. Man needs God. So it has always been. So it will always be. And so too, the message of Jesus Christ will always be life-giving, and the mission of his Church will always remain urgent. As St. Augustine once said, the human heart is restless until it rests in God.

That’s the good news. The more sobering news is this. Much of human history has resembled the drift of tectonic plates, with our learning and culture pushed forward on long, slow currents of time. That season is now over. We live today in a moment of colliding plates; a time unlike anything since the confusion and anxieties of the Reformation; a civilizational change that throws down the old and elevates the new with indifference. As a result, we need to see and respond to the world as it really is. We harm our people and deceive ourselves if we let ourselves become complacent; if we misread the shape of the world now emerging around us.

As Pope Francis told La Repubblica last month, the beginning and the end of life today can be times of equal desperation. The elderly are too often trapped in loneliness, while the young are “crushed under the weight of the present [without] a memory of the past and without the desire to look ahead to the future by building something; a future, a family.” Crushed under the weight of the present: These are hard words, but they’re true. And material, programmatic solutions to problems like these, no matter how good they might be, will never work unless they begin with direct human contact and the tenderness of Christian love.

My task today is to talk about the challenges and responsibilities of the American continent in the work of the new evangelization. Blessed John Paul II’s apostolic exhortation, Ecclesia in America, did this in a comprehensive way in 1999. I don’t need to repeat its content here.

1999 PHOTO OF POPE JOHN PAUL II CELEBRATING MASS AT BASILICA OF OUR LADY OF GUADALUPEBut we do need to recall that, in his text, John Paul paid special attention to the words “From those who have received much, much will be required” in the Gospel of Luke (12:48). That passage applies not just to the wealthy and powerful persons in our care. It also applies to all of us — we bishops who have the privilege of serving and leading the Church. Ecclesia in America reminds us that “the greatest gift which America has received from the Lord is the faith which has forged its Christian identity” (14). Part of the stewardship of that faith is in our hands. And God will hold us accountable for it.

The challenges we face as a Church in America – pastoral, social, economic and political — are as many as they are serious. I want to focus briefly today on three of those problems. The first two are poverty and drugs. I’ll turn to the third problem in due course. But when we speak of “poverty and drugs,” we probably need to understand those words in a much broader sense than we normally use them.

Ecclesia in America speaks of “social sins which cry to heaven” because they demean human dignity and create hatred and division (56). Poverty is an acid that destroys human kinship. It burns away the bonds of mutual love and obligation that make individuals into a community. The United States is the richest, most powerful nation in history. But one in every six persons in my country now lives below the poverty line. And poverty always, inevitably comes with a family of other ugly issues: hunger, homelessness, street crime, domestic violence, unemployment, human trafficking.

All of these evils now belong to the shadow side of both urban and rural life in my country. They eat away at our sense of justice. They undermine the integrity of our public discourse. The trouble is that the economy of the United States still succeeds so well for so many of its people that the poor become invisible. And being invisible, they can be ignored.

Of course, poverty in the United States is one thing. Poverty in the favelas of Brazil is another. Many people in my country – even when they understand the economic inequalities of Latin America – have no real experience of the human suffering involved. Many of us who live in the North have no experience of poor health care, poor education, poor housing, poor sanitation, no electricity, serious corruption or mass unemployment – at least, not on the scale common to some other countries of America. We have no experience of crippling foreign debt that prevents basic development. And we have no experience of the gulf between rich and poor that exists in other regions of the hemisphere.

None of this subtracts from the economic and political progress made across the continent in recent years. But it does reveal to us another kind of poverty. I mean the moral poverty that comes from an advanced culture relentlessly focused on consuming more of everything; a culture built on satisfying the self; a culture that runs on ignoring the needs of other people. That kind of poverty, as Mother Teresa saw so well, is very much alive in my country. It’s like a parasite of the soul. It leaves us constantly eating but constantly hungry for something more – all the while starving the spirit that makes us truly human.

And like material poverty, moral poverty has consequences. It brings fear of new life, a turning away from children, confused sexuality and broken marriages. It results in greed, depression, ugliness and aggression in our popular culture, and laws without grounding in truth. Real human development takes more – much more – than better science, better management and better consumer goods, though all these things are wonderful in their place. Human happiness can’t be separated from the human thirst for meaning. Material things can’t provide that meaning. Abundance can murder the soul as easily as scarcity can. It’s just a different kind of poverty. This is why Ecclesia in America rightly wondered “whether a pastoral strategy directed almost exclusively to meeting people’s material needs has not in the end left their hunger for God unsatisfied, making them vulnerable to anything which claims to be of spiritual benefit” (73).

To paraphrase C.S. Lewis, the devil is happy to cure our fevers if he can give us cancer in the process. To heal a suffering man is a noble and beautiful thing. But there’s a difference between dulling his pain, and making him whole and well.

Likewise, solving poverty of the body by replacing it with a starving soul is not a solution. Marx called religion the opiate of the people. But the real opiate of the people – the coca leaves of modern culture that we’re all expected to chew – is the river of consumer comforts and distractions that we use to damp down our deeper hunger for God and our gnawing sense of obligation to so many other people.

Modern life in developed countries is becoming a cocoon of narcotics, from pornography and abortion to crack cocaine. And that brings us to the issue of drugs, the second of the three problems I mentioned at the start. In a way, drugs are just the symptom, not the root cause, of a deeper social dysfunction. Poverty is the more fundamental problem in understanding a troubled society. But the two issues are closely linked. Poverty drives despair, which seeks relief in drugs. Drugs destroy lives, which end up in poverty and crime. The two problems feed on and compound each other.

All of us here know the impact of the drug trade on the life of our continent. Ecclesia in America lists it among the sins that cry out to heaven for justice. Drug-related violence has killed tens of thousands of people. Drug money deforms entire economies. It cripples development. It corrupts law enforcement agencies. It poisons the courts and the political process. It spreads poverty and despair. It traps women and children in prostitution. And it robs young people of the future.

Something genuinely hellish resides in every transaction that profits from the suffering of an innocent young person. That same hellishness infects every man and woman complicit in sustaining the criminal drug industry, from wealthy consumers in New York, to cartel bosses in Mexico, to chemists in the jungles of Colombia. The United States bears special responsibility for the problem because of its enormous demand for the illegal substances. And as Pope Francis stressed in his visit to Brazil earlier this year, decriminalizing the drug trade will not control or solve the drug scourge. Only deeper social and personal reform can do that.

Of course, none of these words about poverty and drugs is new. They’ve all been said before, and said better, by others. The point I want to make in saying them again is that poverty, drugs and so many of the other painful issues facing our people both derive from and make worse a larger crisis of the spirit. It’s a crisis of identity and purpose. It touches every corner of the American continent. It crosses every border and language group. And it brings us to the third of the three problems I hope we can discuss with each other during this pilgrimage.

The third problem is we ourselves; each of us as a believer and bishop; our limitations; our weaknesses. God called us to lead. The Church ordained us to lead. Therefore we’re responsible. Yes, we bishops didn’t create the world in which we now live. Yes, we don’t control most of the factors that will shape the world tomorrow. I also don’t pretend to understand the unique and serious pressures my Latin American brothers face that I don’t. I ask your indulgence for that, and I hope you will add to and correct what I say here according to your experiences.

But I do know that when I spoke at the Special Assembly for America 16 years ago, I spoke from a moral consensus in the United States that was still largely Christian. Today that is no longer the case. I do know that the mass media of the United States shape the appetites, beliefs and prejudices of much of the rest of the world – including Catholic young people — and with few exceptions, these media are no friend to the Catholic faith.

I do know that Mass attendance and sacramental practice have been People pray during Spanish-language Mass in Riverhead, N.Y.declining for decades in many North American dioceses, well before the clergy abuse crisis of recent years. And I do know that millions of Catholics in my country and Canada are baptized and even catechized, but they don’t know Jesus Christ — and therefore, for many of them, the language of Catholic Scripture, Catholic worship and Catholic moral reasoning is incomprehensible.

Again, we bishops are responsible – not for every failure; not for every mistake; and not for things over which we have no influence or control. But we do have the duty to examine ourselves and our work honestly; to correct each other frankly; to reform our hearts; and to give our lives zealously, completely, without counting the cost, to serving God and our people. A friend once sent me a line from the English poet, T.S. Eliot, and it has stayed in my memory ever since: For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our business. Success in the work of evangelization belongs to God, in his own time, in his own way. But the work belongs to us, now. And it needs to involve more than passing along good doctrine. It needs to lead our people – including the well-catechized – to embrace Jesus Christ and his teaching in a new, more personal way.

I want to turn now, in this last part of my comments, to the duties we have as a body of Catholic brothers in the task of the new evangelization. And we might begin with a few words from Augustine, who served the Church as a bishop in a world not unlike our own. In his Sermons, Augustine once wrote:

Whoever does not want to fear, let him probe his inmost self. Do not just touch the surface; go down into yourself; reach into the farthest corner of your heart.

Here’s what that means.

In an immediate sense, we need to be honest – and at times, that will mean self-critical – in the workgroup sessions that lie before us tomorrow. For example, Ecclesia in America rightly notes that “one of the reasons for the Church’s influence on the Christian formation of Americans is her vast presence in the field of education, and especially in the university world . . . Another important area in which the Church is present in every part of America is social and charitable work” (18). The achievements of Catholic higher education in America are beyond question. But it’s also true that today, some Catholic universities and colleges, and some Catholic charitable ministries, seem to be “Catholic” in name only. Are we willing to admit this? And are we willing to do something about it?

The title of the session I chair tomorrow – Workgroup 8 – is “The missionary activity of the Church in colleges, universities and institutes of higher education.” It may very well be that the Church’s missionary outreach at secular institutions is now more fruitful and a better use of resources than her presence on the campuses of many self-described “Catholic” universities. And I find that curious and sad.

In the longer term, we need to grasp that the “new” evangelization is finally very much like the “old” evangelization. We need to understand the hopes and fears of today’s world, and especially its young adults. And we need to master the new technologies and methods to reach people as they are today. But programs and techniques don’t convert the human heart. Only the witness of other people can do that. We can’t give what we don’t have. If we as bishops don’t have a passion for Jesus Christ, a zeal for his Church and humility about our own weaknesses, then we’ll never be able to set others on fire with the Gospel. Our own tepid hearts and pride will block the way.

We also need to see that the longer our history is as a local Church, and the greater our Catholic legacy and institutions might be as a diocese, then the more encumbered we are by nostalgia, and the harder it is to think creatively about the future. The past is important. We need to remember and revere it. It anchors us in the on-going story of the Church and gives us our identity. But the past cannot be allowed to capture us. The past too easily becomes a kind of aerodynamic drag; an enemy of the nimbleness and radicalism we need in touching the lives of other people with our Christian witness.

If this temptation to inertia is true about the Church in Philadelphia after 250 years — and too often it is — then we need to be equally frank about the Church elsewhere in America, where her structures and history are much older.

People hold candles during Rhode Island prayer vigil for immigration reformWe need, finally and urgently, to work together more closely to protect the dignity of families who find themselves caught between the poverty of their lives in the South and immigration laws in the North that often seem incoherent, unreasonable and even vindictive. To borrow again the words of Pope Francis, too many immigrants find themselves “crushed by the weight of the present” – a present marked by gridlock in Washington, ambivalence and fear among many people in the North, and a pressing need to build a better life among so many people in the South.

The right to life begins with the unborn child. Nothing can excuse the violence or mitigate the evil of abortion. In my country, the cult of abortion has poisoned our laws, our public discourse and even the faith and integrity of many people who consider themselves Christians.

But the right to life continues beyond the womb. To thrive, children need families with a mother and father; and the integrity of the family depends on the freedom of parents to seek work, earn an honest wage, and support each other and the children that God sends to them.

Laws that cripple a family’s right to survive and find work, even across borders when necessary, attack the family itself. And in harming the family, bad laws attack the basic cell of human society. The rights of the family connect intimately to the issue of justice in today’s immigration debates. And in that spirit, I ask you and your people to please, please join us in Philadelphia in 2015 for the next World Meeting of Families. The world urgently needs to see a witness of Christian family solidarity from across our continent – hundreds of thousands strong — that transcends language, color, culture and borders.

I want to conclude with this last thought.

More than 500 years ago, men came from the Old World of Europe to the New World of America. They brought with them their pride and avarice, their illnesses and sins. But they also brought a treasure beyond price — the Word of God, the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And this continent we now share is different and better because of it. My own Native American ancestors, people of the Prairie Band Potawatomi tribe, heard the Gospel preached by Holy Cross and Jesuit missionaries and chose to be baptized. They passed down to me the greatest gift of my life, my Catholic faith.

The New World of the conquistadors became, in too many ways, a world of power and greed and the abuse of human dignity. In our day, God calls us to build a new “New World” – a world of mercy, justice, patience and love. A new “New World” founded on the words of his Son: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 5:6-10).

The biggest obstacle to that new “New World” is not the enemies who hate us, and not the unbelievers who revile the Church and the Gospel. The biggest obstacle is the Old World that lives in our own hearts, even in those of us who are bishops, and maybe especially in some of us who are bishops: our pride, our cowardice, our lack of trust in the promises of God.

Jesus said, “Behold, I make all things new” (Rev 21:5). We need to make those words come alive in the flesh and blood of our own lives; and in the passion of our own Christian witness. In these final days of the Year of Faith, as we pray together here at Mary’s great shrine, may Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Star of the New Evangelization, lead each of us to be made new in her Son – Jesus Christ the Word of God; Jesus Christ the Lord, Jesus Christ the King of this world, and all worlds.

All photos courtesy of CNS

Knights of Columbus Co-Sponsor Vatican Conference in Mexico City on New Evangelization in America

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A major meeting led by the Pontifical Commission for Latin America and co-sponsored by the Knights of Columbus is discussing the role and mission of the Catholic Church in North, South and Central America. The conference is taking place at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City from Nov. 16 to 19.

The conference, titled “Our Lady of Guadalupe, Star of the New Evangelization on the American Continent,” will pay special attention to the important role of Mary’s apparition at Guadalupe in the subsequent — and ongoing — evangelization of the American continent.

The event is co-sponsored by the Pontifical Commission for Latin America, the Knights of Columbus, the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and the Instituto Superior de Estudios Guadalupanos.

Building on a similar event held last year in Rome, this conference takes on a special significance in light of the March 13 election of Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Buenos Aires as the first pope from the American hemisphere.

Inspired by Blessed John Paul II’s exhortation “Ecclesia in America” (The Church in America), which was published in the wake of the Synod for America held in 1997, the conference will include addresses by Cardinal Marc Ouellet, president of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America and former primate of Canada; Knights of Columbus Supreme Knight Carl Anderson; Msgr. Eduardo Chavez, director of the Instituto Superior de Estudios Guadalupanos; Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York; Boston’s Cardinal Sean O’Malley; newly elected president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville; in addition to other leading members of the clergy and laity from throughout the hemisphere.

The conference will focus on the Church’s continental mission in light of Our Lady of Guadalupe’s important place as Mother of the Church in America and in the wake of the election of Pope Francis, whose impact within the region — and beyond — will be the subject of much discussion.

Pope Francis will address the group via a video message on opening day, Nov. 16, following words of welcome by Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera, archbishop of Mexico City, and Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the Vatican’s apostolic nuncio in Mexico.

“At Guadalupe, Mary’s message was one of love and reconciliation, which can be seen echoed in Pope Francis’ efforts to reach out to the poor and marginalized, to the fallen-away and those who have never really followed Christ,” observed Supreme Knight Carl Anderson, who will address the gathering on the Church’s New Evangelization in a talk on Sunday, Nov. 17. “Pope Francis has focused on the New Evangelization with a model that is clearly related to the American model embodied by Our Lady of Guadalupe — a model based on loving outreach, on charity and on concern for the spiritual and physical well-being of all.”

Pope Francis’ Video Message to Conference
“Missionary outreach is paradigm for pastoral action”

Missionary outreach is “the paradigm for all pastoral action,” said Pope Francis in his remarks today in a video message to participants at a four-day pilgrimage-encounter in Mexico. The conference, held 16-19 November, was organized by the Pontifical Commission for Latin America.

The Pope spoke about the need for creativity and about the missionary impulse in the evangelizing work of the Church, making reference to the conclusions of the Fifth General Conference of Latin American Bishops, held in 2007, commonly referred to as Aparecida.

“Aparecida,” he said, “proposes to put the Church in a permanent state of mission… And this, in the certainty that missionary outreach, more than being one activity among others, is a paradigm, that is, the paradigm for all pastoral action.”

The intimacy of the Church with Jesus is an “itinerant intimacy,” he said, which calls people out of themselves to reach out to others.

“It is vital for the Church not to close in on itself, not to feel already satisfied and sure with what it has accomplished,” he said. “If this happens, the Church will get sick, it will get sick with imaginary abundance… in a certain sense it will ‘get indigestion’ and will weaken.”

All pastoral activity is oriented by the missionary impulse to reach everyone, he continued. “It is necessary to go out of one’s community and to have the boldness to go to the existential peripheries, which need to feel God’s closeness,” he said.

Evangelization is not exclusive and it considers the circumstances in which people find themselves. Christians must share the joy of having encountered Christ and not impose new obligations, reprimand others or complain about that which they consider to be lacking.

“The work of evangelization demands much patience,” he said. It also presents the “Christian message in manner that is serene and gradual… as did the Lord”.

It privileges that which is “essential and most necessary, that is, the beauty of the love of God, communicated in Christ, who died and resurrected.”

He urged Christians to step outside of their usual ways of doing things. “We must force ourselves to be creative in our methods,” he said. “We cannot remain confined in our common space of ‘it was always done this way’.”

Temptation of Clericalism

The Pope also addressed the role of clerics and religious in the Church. He said a bishop leads the pastoral life of the Church with tenderness and patience, “manifesting the maternity of the Church and the mercy of God”. The attitude of the true pastor must not be that of a prince or of a bureaucrat. Instead, a bishop must care for his people, knowing how to discern the movement of the Holy Spirit.

Pope Francis also addressed the need to deal with clericalism. “The temptation of clericalism, which does much damage to the Church in Latin America, is an obstacle to the development of maturity and Christian responsibility of a good part of the laity,” he said.

He described clericalism as a “group attitude” that is “self-referential” and which impoverishes encounter with Christ, which is what creates disciples.

“Therefore, I believe it is important, urgent, to form ministers capable… of encounter, who know how to enflame the hearts of people, walk with them, enter into dialogue with their hopes and fears,” he said.

He added that today’s culture requires good priestly formation, and he questioned whether the Church had “sufficient capacity to be self-critical in order to evaluate the results of very small seminaries, which have a shortage of formative staff”.

The Pope also said consecrated life is leaven for the Church and urged consecrated men and women to be faithful to their communities’ charisms, which are a “great prophecy… for the good of the Church”.

The Pope concluded by urging his listeners to live their baptismal call in faith and to share it with others.

(CNS Photo/ Bob Roller) 

Social communications is for bringing others to Christ: Pope Francis’ Address to Participants in the Plenary Assembly for the Pontifical Council for Social Communications:

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Today shortly after noon, Pope Francis addressed the participants in the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications.

Pope Francis said the goal of the Church for its communications efforts is to understand how to enter into dialogue with the men and women of today in order to appreciate their desires, their doubts and their hopes. The Holy Father said we must examine if the communications of the Church are helping others to meet Christ.

The challenge is to rediscover, through the means of social communication as well as by personal contact, the beauty that is at the heart of our existence and our journey, the beauty of faith and of the encounter with Christ, he said.

Below is the full text of Pope Francis’ remarks to us in the Clementine Hall:

Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!

I greet you and I thank you for your work and commitment to the important sector of social communications, but having spoken to Archbishop Celli, I must change sector to the important dimension of life which is that of social communications. I wish to thank Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli for the greeting that he extended to me on your behalf. I would like to share some thoughts with you.

First of all: the importance of social communications for the Church. This year is the fiftieth anniversary of the Conciliar Decree Inter Mirifica. This anniversary is more than a commemoration; the Decree expresses the Church’s attentiveness towards communication and all its instruments, which are also important in the work of evangelisation. But towards its instruments communication is not an instrument! Its something else. In the last few decades, the various means of communication have evolved significantly, but the Church’s concern remains the same, taking on new forms and expressions. The world of social communications, more and more, has become a living environment for many, a web where people communicate with each other, expanding the boundaries of their knowledge and relationships (cf. Benedict XVI, Message for the 2013 World Communications Day). I wish to underline these positive aspects, although we are all aware of the limitations and harmful factors which also exist.

In this context  and this is the second reflection we must ask ourselves: what role should the Church have in terms of its own practical means of communication? In every situation, beyond technological considerations, I believe that the goal is to understand how to enter into dialogue with the men and women of today, in order to appreciate their desires, their doubts, and their hopes. They are men and women who sometimes feel let down by a Christianity that to them appears sterile, struggling precisely to communicate the depth of meaning that faith gives. We do in fact witness today, in the age of globalization, a growing sense of disorientation and isolation; we see, increasingly, a loss of meaning to life, an inability to connect with a home, and a struggle to build meaningful relationships. It is therefore important to know how to dialogue, and how to enter, with discernment, into the environments created by new technologies, into social networks, in such a way as to reveal a presence that listens, converses, and encourages. Do not be afraid to be this presence, expressing your Christian identity as you become citizens of this environment. A Church that follows this path learns how to walk with everybody! And there’s also an ancient rule of the pilgrims, that Saint Ignatius includes, and that’s why I know it! In one of his rules, he says that anyone accompanying a pilgrim must walk at the same pace as the pilgrim, not ahead and not lagging behind. And this is what I mean: a Church that accompanies the journey, that knows how to walk as people walk today. This rule of the pilgrim will help us to inspire things.

The third: its a challenge that we all face together in this environment of social communications, and the problem is not principally technological. We must ask ourselves: are we capable of bringing Christ into this area, or rather, of bringing about the encounter with Christ? To walk with the pilgrim through life, but as Jesus walked with the pilgrims of Emmaus, warming their hearts and leading them to the Lord? Are we capable of communicating the face of a Church which can be a home to everyone? We talk about the Church behind closed doors. But this is more than a Church with open doors, its more! Finding home together, building home, building the Church. Its this: building the Church as we walk. A challenge! To lead to the rediscovery, through means of social communication as well as by personal contact, of the beauty which is at the heart of our existence and our journey, the beauty of faith, the beauty of the encounter with Christ.

Even in the context of social communications, the Church is required to bring warmth, to warm hearts. Do our presence and plans measure up to this requirement, or do we remain mired in technicalities? We hold a precious treasure that is to be passed on, a treasure that brings light and hope. They are greatly needed. All this, however, requires a careful and thorough formation in this area for priests, for religious men and women, for laity. The great digital continent does not only involve technology, but is made up of real men and women who bring with them what they carry inside, their hopes, their suffering, their concerns, their pursuit of truth, beauty, and good.

We need to show and bring Christ to others, sharing these joys and hopes, like Mary, who brought Christ to the hearts of men and women; we need to pass through the clouds of indifference without losing our way; we need to descend into the darkest night without being overcome and disorientated; we need to listen to the illusions of many, without being seduced; we need to share their disappointments, without becoming despondent; to sympathize with those whose lives are falling apart, without losing our own strength and identity (cf. Pope Francis, Address to the Bishops of Brazil, July 27, 2013, n. 4). This is the walk. This is the challenge.

Dear friends, the concern and the presence of the Church in the world of social communications is important in order to dialogue with the men and women of today and bring them to meet Christ, but the encounter with Christ is personal. It cannot be manipulated. In these times we see a great temptation within the Church, which is spiritual harassment: the manipulation of conscience; a theological brainwashing which in the end leads to an encounter with Christ which is purely nominal, not with the Live Person of Christ. In a person’s encounter with Christ, both Christ and the person need to be involved! Not what’s wanted by the spiritual engineer, who wants to manipulate people. This is the challenge. To bring about the encounter with Christ in the full knowledge, though, that we ourselves are means of communication, and that the fundamental problem is not the acquisition of the latest technologies, although these are necessary to a valid, contemporary presence. It is necessary to be absolutely clear that the God in whom we believe, who loves all men and women intensely, wants to reveal himself through the means at our disposal, however poor they are, because it is he who is at work, he who transforms, and he who saves us.

Let us all pray that the Lord may warm our hearts and sustain us in the engaging mission of bringing him to the world. I ask you for your prayers, because this is my mission too, and I assure you of my blessing.

Courtesy of Vatican Radio

(CNS Photo) 

 

New documentary on Synod of Bishops premieres Sept. 22

Fotor090994025Find all information on Go and Teach including broadcast times at saltandlighttv.org/goandteach

It’s not often that outsiders are allowed into the engine room of the Vatican. Sure, each day thousands of people march along the prescribed tourist routes that take them around St. Peter’s Square and into the Basilica and museums. But how many get a chance to see, and speak to, and share meals with the people on the inside who run the show? That’s a rare opportunity and typically only happens discreetly when the visitors are family members or close friends. It’s even rarer when there’s a major event taking place, like a conclave or a synod of bishops.

At this time last year, I was getting ready for one of those rare experiences. The Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization was coming up in October and I was going to see it all up close from the inside. To be honest, I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know what kind of access we would get, or how the bishops and the Vatican staff would treat us. This was, after all, the first time anyone from the outside was allowed on the inside.

In return for the “backstage pass,” we agreed with the office of the Synod of Bishops to produce a full-length documentary on the event. I knew right away this was going to be a difficult commitment to keep. A powerful and provocative documentary can only happen when there are powerful and provocative images to capture. And I wasn’t convinced that a room filled with four hundred people (262 of them bishops) speaking one after the other for five minutes each was the most exhilarating script for a feature film. In any case, the sheer novelty of our access proved to be all the inspiration we needed.Fotor090994256

The other “X factor” for me was the fact that the bishops were going to be talking about the New Evangelization. It didn’t take a Vatican insider to sense the heaviness hanging over the Vatican at the time. It was almost like the institutional church was in a mud-bog. The hopes of so many people, Catholics and non-Catholics, were hinged on the notion that something new, joyful and inspirational would come out of this!

Well, little did any of us know that a major shake up was coming four months later. On the night of February 28th, after the doors of Castel Gandalfo closed and the Swiss Guards left the side of Pope Benedict XVI, I had the chance to speak to Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the Archbishop of Washington and the Relator General (or moderator) of the October 2012 Synod. The mood was dark, everyone in Vatican City was sad. I asked the Cardinal how he felt, and to my surprise he said, “You know Sebastian, I have so much hope! What Pope Benedict has taught us with this gesture is that we can and should do things differently!”

That for me is the essence of the New Evangelization. And that’s what we’ve tried to communicate with our latest documentary Go and Teach: Inside the Synod on the New Evangelization. Through in depth interviews with cardinals, bishops, delegates and journalists, we tell the story of what happened on the inside: of how humility and joy became prerequisites for evangelization; of how the implementation of the Second Vatican Council must continue; of how recapturing the personal encounter with Jesus Christ is the only real answer to our complex global reality.