My hope is that more and more
Catholics will be evangelizers and recognize that they have the privileged duty
of inviting people to be a part of what we’re all about. When people encounter
Jesus Christ and really come to commit themselves to the mission he has given to
the Church you don’t have to twist their arms to share the Good News with
others. I think there is a lot of confusion about what evangelization is and
what it isn’t. Often times Catholics hear the word evangelization and they
picture someone going door to door or telling people if they don’t accept
Jesus they’re going to hell. We have to reclaim a Catholic vision of
evangelization that’s whole and rooted in the mission of the Church to be a
“light for the world” (cf. Matthew 5:14). The following from the
introduction to John Paul II and the New Evangelization (1995 Ignatius Press)
states the following:
Evangelization means living and sharing this great gift of faith with enthusiasm. It means truly accepting Jesus Christ and sharing him with others – sharing his life, his love, his truth, his goodness, his values, his compassion, his integrity. As we foster a deepening conversion to Christ in our own lives, we can joyfully promote a new mentality, an openness, a desire, a willingness to bring to all the world what we Catholic followers of Jesus Christ have to offer.
We have all seen the spiritual hunger among many people in our society. All people want to experience “the good life”. God wants to use us to make that colloquial expression become splendidly fulfilled through helping others know and accept Jesus as “the Way, the Truth, and the Life”. Catholic evangelization means “bringing the good news of Jesus into every human situation and seeking to convert individuals and society by the divine power of the gospel itself. Its essence is the proclamation of salvation in Jesus Christ and the response of a person of faith, both being the work of the Spirit of God” (Go and Make Disciples p.2).
Deepening people’s relationship with the Lord and one
another is the goal of parish life. There are already ways that people share
their faith in the parish, and I certainly wouldn’t deny this. But I believe
God is asking us to be more bold, more creative, and more enthused about the
“new evangelization” so that we can attract more people to Christ. We’re
not called to maintain the status quo but to be challenged to deepen our
commitment to mission and to recognize a vast majority of people do not know
Jesus Christ and what discipleship is all about.
What happens when certain people within the Church promote
ideas and ways of thinking that change the focus and goal of the mission as
defined by Scripture and taught by the Magisterium (the official teaching office
of the Church)? I see more and more examples of how much confusion there is in
our Church because of people who dissent and think they can teach anything they
want and call it Catholic thinking.
I recently read an article in U.S. Catholic that really
highlighted this problem. Robert McClory wrote and article
promoting religious pluralism as a new possibility for the Church. The article
basically calls into question whether Jesus Christ is necessary for salvation
and whether the Church has the right to claim it has the fullness of Truth when
it comes to God’s revelation. It slams the recent Vatican declaration Dominus
Iesus. The document sought to clarify heretical teaching on religious
pluralism and it was promulgated by Pope John Paul II. Many
people speculated that the Pope had nothing to do with the writing or approval
of Dominus Iesus, but he clearly indicated during the Sunday
Angelus that he ordered its publication and supported what it was saying.
The article in U.S. Catholic represents the widespread
dissent we see within the Church from official Magisterial teaching. We live in
an age where there are many theologians and “experts” who promote teachings
and ideas that are in direct conflict with the teaching of the Bishops and the
Pope. I recently received an email from a person seeking to join the Catholic
Church who was told by someone who is teaching in RCIA that they didn’t
believe in the teaching office of the Church and that you didn’t have to
follow the teachings of the Magisterium. This is nothing new. I run into this
problem all the time. At my old parish someone who was taking courses at Seattle
University came up to me after Mass with a disagreement about my homily. He made
the statement that “Jesus never said he was Divine. That’s something the
Church tacked on later in its history.” Of course, wouldn’t you know this
person had also taught in RCIA.
In light of all the confusion I have witnessed I have also
seen great signs of hope and renewal. While there are many branches within the
Church that are diseased or dead there are many new branches sprouting forth
full of love for the Truth and a renewed passion for mission. God always helps
me keep my perspective by bringing certain people into my life who are committed
and loyal to Church teaching and excited about sharing their Catholic faith with
the people around them. God is raising up a whole new generation of ardent
servants of the Gospel who are on board and not calling into question the very
basics of our faith. Like the early church they have encountered the Risen Lord
and their lives are becoming a bold proclamation of His love and power over sin
and death. They have discovered the difference opening up to the Holy Spirit
makes and they are not satisfied with compromising the call to holiness and
total dedication of their lives for the work of the Gospel. I am inspired by
these men and women and they are a wonderful sign of hope and a reminder of
Jesus’ promise to remain with his Church until the end of time. (cf. Matthew
28:20) I believe we need to be honest about the situation we’re in as a Church
but we also need to call out and celebrate the signs and fruits of faithfulness
that are all around us. St. Paul put it this way:
God in his mercy has given us this work to do, and so we do not become discouraged. We put aside all secret and shameful deeds; we do not act with deceit, nor do we falsify the Word of God. In the full light of truth we live in God’s sight and try to commend ourselves to everyone’s good conscience. For if the gospel we preach is hidden, it is hidden only from those who are being lost. They do not believe, because their minds have been kept in the dark by the evil god of this world. He keeps them from seeing the light shining on them, the light that comes from the Good News about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God. For it is not ourselves that we preach; we preach Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. The God who said, “Out of darkeness the light shall shine” is the same God who made his light shine in our hearts, to bring us the knowledge of God’s glory shining in the face of Christ.
Yet we who have this spiritual treasure are like common clay pots, in order to show that the supreme power belongs to God, not to us. We are often troubled, but not crushed; there are many enemies, but we are never without a friend; and though badly hurt at times, we are not destroyed. At all times we carry in our mortal bodies the death of Jesus, so that his life also may be seen in our bodies. (2 Corinthians 4:1-10)
So be encouraged by the Word of God and do not allow yourself to be discouraged as you look around and see the “mass confusion” in our world today. It may get worse before it gets better, but God is faithful to His Word and we have much to look forward to as we experience a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit to strengthen us for ministry.
With kind permission of Fr. Jim Northrop
Why is the Church called Catholic?
Dissent: An attempt to have your cake and eat it too?
Does Dogma Divide?
To Dissenting Priests by C.S. Lewis
For more on the difference between watered-down Christianity and its full-bodied form, please see the review of Flawed Expectations.
A Catholic Defense of the Authority of the Church by John D'Arcy.
Clear Explanations of Catholic Teachings
An agnostic who understands the Church better than some Catholics do
Hitler's Pope: Comic Book Approach to Church History
Stem Cell Research: Teaching of Bible & Catholic Church