Friday, October 12, 2012

The Year of Faith-the new evangelization

Yesterday, October 11th, 2012, marked the opening of a "year of faith" in the Catholic Church. It has been Fifty years since Blessed John XXIII opened the doors of the church to a renewal in the Spirit. In the words of one of the chief documents, Gaudium et Spes, " At all times the Church carries the responsibility of reading the signs of the time and of interpreting them in the light of the Gospel, if it is to carry out its task." What are the signs of our time? There is a new Pew research poll that shows a high percentage of Americans view themselves as "spiritual" but "not religious." What accounts for this? Amazingly, Gaudium et Spes, written in 1965, seems to answer this question directly: " A change in attitudes and structures frequently calls accepted values into question. This is true above all of young people who have grown impatient at times and, indeed, rebellious in their distress. Conscious of their own importance in the life of society, they aspire to play their part in it all the sooner. Consequently, it frequently happens that parents and teachers face increasing difficulties in the performance of their tasks. Traditional institutions, laws and modes of thought and emotion do not always appear to be in harmony with today's world. This has given rise to a serious disruption of patterns and even of norms of behavior. As regards religion there is a completely new atmosphere that conditions its practice. On the one hand people are taking a hard look at all magical world views and prevailing superstitions and demanding a more personal and active commitment of faith, so that not a few have achieved a lively sense of divine. On the other hand greater numbers are falling away from the practice of religion. In the past it was the exception to repudiate God and religion to the point of abandoning them, and then only in individual cases; but nowadays it seems a matter of course to reject them as incompatible with scientific progress and a new kind of humanism. In many places it is not only in philosophical terms that such trends are expressed, but there are signs of them in literature, art, the humanities, the interpretation of history and even civil law: all of which is very disturbing to many people." What the Vatican II document says in short is that "secularism" is the enemy of religion. Pope Benedict XVI has spoken about this and you see it rampant in American Society. This is why we need to "re-open" the doors of the church to the world. Addressing students at an outdoor mass St. Josemaria Escriva addresses the dichotomy between the church and the world. He states: " This profound and consoling truth, which theologians call the eschatalogical significance of the Eucharist could however, be misunderstood. And indeed it has been, whenever men have tried to present the Christian way of life as something exclusively spiritual, proper to pure, extraordinary people, who remain aloof from the contemptible things of this world or at most, tolerate them as something necessarily attached to the spirit, while we live on this earth. When things are seen in this way, churches become the setting par excellence of the Christian life. And being a Christian means being taken up in ecclesiastical matters in a kind of segregated world, which is considered to be the ante-chamber of heaven, while the ordinary world follows its own separate path. the doctrine of Christianity and the life of grace would, in this case, brush past the turbulent march of human history without ever really meeting it.......Surely this confirms in your minds, in a tangible and unforgettable way, the fact that everyday life is the true setting for your lives as Christians. Your ordinary contact with God takes place where your fellow men, your yearnings, your work and your affections are. There you have your daily encounter with Christ. It is in the midst of the most material things of the earth that we must sanctify ourselves, serving God and all mankind." Wow! St. Josemaria's words leap off the page and speak right to our generation. To be "religious" in the minds of most Americans is to do Church things. Being "spiritual" however, means you can find God outside of a church. We need to address this! The Catholic church does not disagree. We need to convince those who are not attending church that they can have an encounter with Christ-it is not an either/or proposition, it is both/and. Sadly, I think in many circles of Catholic Christianity we expect the world to come to us. That is not the Gospel message. We must bring Christ to the world! This past weekend it was a great joy to celebrate mass on the banks of the Salmon River in Pulaski, NY. My altar was a downed tree branch and I had a green stole over my waders. With 32 men in attendance we read the readings, the gospel, I preached a homily, and celebrated the prayers of the liturgy of the Eucharist. Where moments before men were arguing with one another over who had which fishing spot, now they were exchanging the sign of peace. After 25 minutes the mass was complete. Heaven had come down to earth and we brought Christ to that part of God's creation. This is what we must do in each and every situation. Let us be missionaries of God's love to a world that does not know Jesus Christ. "They don't want me because they don't know me" Jesus said to Mother Teresa. We must make Jesus Christ known. In the words of Pope Benedict XVI: "May the gospel reawaken in all the baptized the awareness that they are missionaries of Christ, called to prepare the way for him with words and with the witness of their lives."

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