Thursday, September 13, 2012

New Evangelization and the Revelation of God Become Man

(The following is a supplemented version of the presentation made this evening at Cinema Catechism's viewing of Episode One of the Catholicism series.)(supplemented further Saturday, September 15)
The Catholicism website says that the series answers "the call for the new evangelization," and I would invite all of you to use this series in preparing for and living the Year of Faith and New Evangelization.

We've been hearing a lot about the Year of Faith and New Evangelization, but just exactly what are they?

Occasionally, the Pope will proclaim years to reflect and focus upon various themes, recently the Year of Priests. And Pope Benedict decided to call a Year of Faith to begin October 11, on the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the Second Vatican Council, and in connection with that, to hold a synod of bishops on the New Evangelization.
Ever since the start of my ministry as Successor of Peter, I have spoken of the need to rediscover the journey of faith so as to shed ever clearer light on the joy and renewed enthusiasm of the encounter with Christ. During the homily at the Mass marking the inauguration of my pontificate I said: “The Church as a whole and all her Pastors, like Christ, must set out to lead people out of the desert, towards the place of life, towards friendship with the Son of God, towards the One who gives us life, and life in abundance.” . . .

In the light of all this, I have decided to announce a Year of Faith. It will begin on 11 October 2012, the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council, and it will end on the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Universal King, on 24 November 2013. (Porta Fidei 2, 4)
But what is this "New Evangelization" we keep hearing about all of a sudden??

First, it should be noted that "the New Evangelization" has been described in various ways in varying contexts since the call first went out. Thus, there is no one single answer to the question of "what is the New Evangelization?" However, in all of its usages, it involved some core concepts, with more or less emphasis placed on this or that, and inevitably overlapping into other related areas.

The term "New Evangelization" was first used in a document by Latin American bishops, but its usage by the universal Church has its origin in a homily given by Blessed Pope John Paul II at Nowa Huta during his first apostolic journey to his native Poland in 1979. Nowa Huta was a factory town that had been built without a church after WWII, as planned by the Communist rulers who said that workers had no need for God. The Polish faithful knew otherwise, and they came and erected a large cross in the town where then-Bishop Karol Wojtyla celebrated Mass for the people. Afterward, the Communists knocked down the cross, and kept knocking it down after the people and Bishop Wojtyla would put it back up. And now the cross is there to stay, as well as the church that was finally built, and consecrated by Cardinal Wojtyla in 1977, with a stone from the tomb of St. Peter, a gift from Pope Paul VI, placed in the church's foundation. So it was fitting that there, where the cross had come and triumphed over a place without God, that the call for a New Evangelization should be made.

In making this call, John Paul said that, in pursuing the New Evangelization for the new millenium, we must refer to the teaching of the Second Vatican Council. Thus, it is fair to say that the idea of the New Evangelization has its roots in Blessed Pope John XXIII's opening address to the Council, where the Pope said quite explicitly,
The greatest concern of the Ecumenical Council is this: that the sacred deposit of Christian doctrine be safeguarded and expounded more effectively. . . . What is needed at the present time is a new enthusiasm, a new joy and serenity of mind in the unreserved acceptance by all of the entire Christian faith, without forfeiting that accuracy and precision in its presentation which characterized the proceedings of the Council of Trent and the First Vatican Council. What is needed, and what everyone imbued with a truly Christian, Catholic and apostolic spirit craves today, is that this doctrine shall be more widely known, more deeply understood, and more penetrating in its effects on men's moral lives. What is needed is that this certain and immutable doctrine, to which the faithful owe obedience, be studied afresh and reformulated in contemporary terms. For this deposit of faith, or truths which are contained in our time-honored teaching is one thing; the manner in which these truths are set forth (with their meaning preserved intact) is something else.
The Pope went on to say that, while condemnations were sometimes necessary, there should be a preference for spreading the Faith in a positive manner. After all, the Lord is an occasion for joy.
Successive generations give rise to varying errors, and these often vanish as quickly as they came, like mist before the sun. The Church has always opposed these errors, and often condemned them with the utmost severity. Today, however, Christ's Bride prefers the balm of mercy to the arm of severity. She believes that, present needs are best served by explaining more fully the purport of her doctrines, rather than by publishing condemnations.
Accordingly, considering John Paul's call for a New Evangelization in light of the Council:
Number One -- safeguard the Faith. People who say that there was a reinvention of the Faith at the Council are wrong. In opening the Council, Pope John repeated emphasized that there was an obligation to transmit the Faith "in all its purity, undiluted, undistorted." We are mere servants here.
Number Two -- find better and more effective ways to spread the faith.
Number Three -- spread the faith in positive terms, charity in truth. For example, rather than be merely anti-abortion, we should be pro-life in our approach. Rather than merely condemn contraception as evil and wrong, we should do so by promoting the positive good of marriage and the fullness of authentic love in human sexuality. Rather than rail at people, "Bad News, you're going to burn in hell," we should proclaim, "Good News, in Jesus Christ you can be saved."

So, with respect to the New Evangelization --

The New -- in an address to Catechists and Religion Teachers in 2000, Cardinal Ratzinger differentiated between "classic evangelization" and the "New Evangelization."
We can see a progressive process of de-Christianization and a loss of the essential human values, which is worrisome. A large part of today's humanity does not find the Gospel in the permanent evangelization of the Church . . . This is why we are searching for, along with permanent and uninterrupted and never to be interrupted evangelization, a new evangelization, capable of being heard by that world that does not find access to "classic" evangelization. Everyone needs the Gospel; the Gospel is destined to all and not only to a specific circle and this is why we are obliged to look for new ways of bringing the Gospel to all.
These new ways, new methods, might include new technologies, such as the Internet, film, art, etc. Cinema Catechism and Fr. Barron's Catholicism series are examples of the use of new technologies, new media to spread the Faith in the New Evangelization.

The new ways might also involve new formulations -- fresher, more effective, more understandable ways of speaking the truth, including recognizing the need to correct people's misconceptions and false ideas about the Faith and Church. This would include presenting the faith in your own words of witness and experience of your life. Know your audience for effective communication. We need to speak the language that they speak. Latin is the language of the Church, but to the world, Latin is a dead language and were we to speak only Latin to people, it would be noisy gibberish to them and we would fail to engage in real communication with them.

In fishing for men and women, we need to have the right kind of hooks for that particular fish, we need to have the right kinds of nets to catch those who might slip through more classic nets, and we need to know the best time of day to go out, to fish when they are biting. Casting our nets at the right time and in the right place might involve more surreptitious methods rather than the direct frontal assault method of asking people, "Are you saved? Have you accepted Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior?" (an approach by some Protestants that I'm sure we are all personally familiar with). It might mean stealthily going around their pre-built defenses or infiltrating them, allowing them to see the love and truth of Jesus reflected in your actions and words even if you do not initially use the name "Jesus." This is something that Mother Teresa quite often did. Encourage them in truth and love, and only when those defenses are down may the time be right to cast the net.

Now, in using new formulations, new words to spread the Faith, we need to be careful to protect and safeguard the Faith, to proclaim only what the Church teaches and not our own personal ideas. This is not a license to proclaim the Church of Do Your Own Thing. We are mere servants, workers in the vineyard of the Lord, and it is His Church, not ours to remake as we please. Moreover, the people we encounter have a right to learn the fullness of the Faith of the Church, and not be subjected to our own fancies.

However, if the classic method works, go with it. Stick with the tried and true, if it ain't broke, don't fix it, but if one is not responsive to that classic evangelization, we need to use another hook.

The New also includes rediscovery of old forgotten sources, or those that we did not have ready access to before, like the ancient writings of the early Church fathers or CDs of early church music, chant and polyphony. In this, the new technologies, like the Internet, are of enormous assistance.

In addition, the New also includes a revitalization of the classic evangelization, a renewal and reinvigoration of our own faith lives. It begins with us, it must begin with ourselves, and if we are married, that includes spouses evangelizing each other, building up the faith of the other, helping each other to grow in the Lord, as they are called to do in the Sacrament of Matrimony. And, in connection with that, parents evangelizing their children, conveying to them the most precious gift that is the love and truth of God, as well as evangelizing other members of our family, including that family whom we call fellow Catholics, our brothers and sisters in the Church.

And so, given the need for personal renewal, the New Evangelization must begin with prayer. Where the ultimate goal is communion with God, to be one with Him and in Him, it is proper that we should begin with communicating with Him, by responding to Him and asking Him to join with us in our journey to help us with grace and speak through us. We are called to be a light, but we ourselves are not the light, He is the Light, and we must allow His light to shine through us to others.

In this connection, John Paul teaches in Christifideles Laici and Redemptoris Missio that a related step in the New Evangelization is re-evangelization -- personal conversion and renewal (CF 34). We cannot effectively proclaim Christ and have Him shine through us if He is a stranger to our hearts. And it is witness that is the first form of evangelization. As John Paul recognizes, "people today put more trust in witnesses than in teachers, in experience than in teaching, and in life and action than in theories" (RM 42). Thus, we need to know Him first-hand if we are to be His witnesses to our spouses, family, fellow Catholics, and the world.

This leads to initial proclamation of the Good News.
This is the "Good News" which changes man and his history, and which all peoples have a right to hear. This proclamation is to be made within the context of the lives of the individuals and peoples who receive it. It is to be made with an attitude of love and esteem toward those who hear it, in language which is practical and adapted to the situation. In this proclamation the Spirit is at work and establishes a communion between the missionary and his hearers, a communion which is possible inasmuch as both enter into communion with God the Father through Christ. (RM 44)
Only later, after the proclamation of the Good News, can catechesis and instruction fruitfully occur.

So that's the New, what about the Evangelization part?

The Evangelization – In the broadest sense, the New Evangelization is about spreading the fullness of the Faith, depending upon whom you are interacting with. Even if you are dealing with a person well-versed in the Faith, we need to help revitalize and strengthen them in their faith, and help make sure that they are oriented in the right direction toward God and not pointed toward the wilderness. But instead of that broad sense, I would like to focus on that word "Evangelization," which is from the Greek euangélion (also spelled euaggelion, pronounced you-on-gellion), often translated as "Glad tidings" or "Good News."

Before going on, I’d like to ask -- Are you better off than you were 5-10 years ago? Or do you perceive that things are getting worse, not only economically, but socially, culturally, politically, etc.? Our social climate is more coarse and corrosive than ever. There is resentment and bile and disharmony and fear for the present and future. People feel unjustly burdened and some face threats to their lives and freedom. A lot of people are hurting out there and they don't expect things to improve, only get worse. And I have been one of those people -- I've known the stress and anxiety of severe underemployment, the pain of feeling unwanted, and I am approaching that stressful period in life where I am facing the loss of my parents, who are in their sunset years. But, of course, I am not alone in these things and many have things much worse.

A lot of people are anxious, many in despair. Many have given up. Even people who have jobs and many worldly riches are afraid of losing what they have and end up spending much of their time seeking to increase that wealth rather than focusing on the more important things in life. Even in the best of times, many find that something is lacking in life despite all their riches, they may love their gold, but their gold does not love them back. And, not to get political, but many think that there is a good chance that our entire economic structure is going to collapse and crash and burn. So, none of us are immune.

The world is in desperate need of some good news, some real hope, hope as a reality, not a slogan. People need some good news in these times where all the news looks bad and grim. Many of you need some good news. I am very much in need of some good news, some glimmer of hope.

And that is what we have to offer to people -- Good News. And that is what keeps me afloat, the Good News of Jesus Christ. By that, we mean not so much that the Good News is about Jesus Christ, or that the Good News is from Jesus Christ, although it does involve those things, but we primarily mean that the Good News is Jesus Christ. He Himself is the Good News. Christianity, Catholicism, is primarily not a philosophy, an ideology, or set of ethics, but is relationship. The ultimate goal is not merely for people to know facts about Jesus or to agree with His ideas, but to establish a relationship with Him personally. It is about an encounter, an intimate encounter, with a person, the person of Jesus Christ, Love and Truth and Life in person. Intimacy with the Lord, staying with Him, is what Christian discipleship is fundamentally about.

In my own struggle, He is my rock and salvation. If I build my life on Him, I can withstand the storm. Jesus, with His Blessed Mother at His side, our mother, my mother. I have some money saved up, but without Him and Mary and His Bride, I would have nothing, I would then be truly without all hope. This is not theory, these are not warm platitudes we offer, this is personal. This is not the first time that I have gone through hard times or the threat of dark times, the prospect of doom, and it won't be the last, and it was the Lord and His Holy Bride and my most precious Mary who have held me and saved me. And in love and truth, we need to share this gift of Jesus with the cold and dark world out there. They need Him, they have a right to Him.

The world is in desperate need of this Good News, a lot of people are anxious and struggling, poor and rich alike. A couple of years ago, there was a famous professional golfer who was simply astounding to watch. He was by far the best in the world and primed to be the best ever before certain aspects of his personal life came to light, resulting in the break-up of his marriage and family. Fr. Barron notes that, again, Jesus is not like Buddha, offering primarily a philosophy of life, a spiritually liberating path, but instead offers us relationship with the Love that brings new life. This professional golfer is not Christian, he is Buddhist, and there was a bit of a controversy in some quarters when retired newsman Brit Hume suggested that what he really needed was Jesus Christ, from whom he could obtain forgiveness and redemption, which is not a part of Buddhism. Was Hume correct to suggest this? Well, it should be noted that this golfer isn't the same as he was, his game has never recovered and his family remains tragically shattered. Although he puts on a brave face in interviews, one can detect that he is not a happy person, there is an emptiness there despite his remaining a very wealthy person.

Yes, people everywhere need the Good News of Jesus Christ. Now, ultimately the Good News is Jesus Christ, but recognizing the need to proclaim Him in an effective manner, we may need to begin with something more fundamental.

Good News! Rejoice! We have found what your restless heart has been searching for -- God exists. Our own existence is not random and accidental. We are not at the mercy of arbitrary and irrational forces in the universe, the universe is not ruled by chaos. Rather, God exists and you are wanted. You and your life have meaning, to love and be loved in truth. He is loving and merciful and truthful, but more than that, He is Love, He is Truth. You are loved!

And the truth is that man was made for life, made for a blessed and happy life, for love and truth and freedom.

But we can immediately see that this world is not a paradise, the history of mankind is a history of hardship and pain and suffering, where mere survival is a struggle.

However, Good News, God is Love and Truth, so in His Love, He will make sure that we obtain that life, that life of beatitude if only we accept Him, even if we have rejected Him in the past and are responsible for misfortune coming down upon our own heads by our own wrongful deeds. And to that end, He came down from heaven and became man.

Good News -- The Kingdom of God is at hand, Jesus Christ is Emmanuel, God with us. This God is Love, God is Truth, who is the fullness of reality itself, beginning and end, Alpha and Omega, has come to dwell amongst us in Jesus Christ, the Word, the Logos. He came and gives sight to the blind, comfort to the poor, He comes to free us from the oppression of hardship and sufferings of this world, to save us even from death. The Good News of the Cross, which by the transformative power of the fullness of love, new life is possible. He shepherds us through the valley of the shadow of suffering and death, and He makes all things new. If life in this world reduces you to tears, He stands ready to dry your tears and hold you.

And beyond salvation, Good News, He also comes to sanctify us, to perfect us, to make us holy. In his book, Fr. Barron notes that the word "sin" is from the German "sunde," meaning "to sunder or separate," which is what sin does, separate us from God. He also notes that the word "holy" sounds like it is related to "whole," such that to be holy is to be made whole, to bring together what has been separated by sin and to be one with Christ.

We are destined for divinization, transformation into God by being one with Him. Two become one. A fruitful loving communion of persons in one being. As Fr. Barron says, the coming together of incongruous things, the divine and the human. You are loved! You are loved by a Bridegroom who is the fullness and perfection of Love and who wants to give to you the infinite goodness that is to be one with that fullness and perfection of Love.

Good News -- Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, join with Him and though you were dead, yet shall you live. This world is not the be all and end all, there is something better that awaits us. But even while we journey through this worldly life, if we do so with Him, we have hope, we can endure. We know that we are loved, that we are wanted. And even beyond that, we are needed. We are not useless and pointless. People need to be not only wanted, but have a sense that they are needed, and we do have a purpose, we are needed, the Lord asks us for our help. He asks us to help others to be able to experience His love for themselves. The Eternal Lord asks us to be as Joseph and Mary, carrying Him in our arms and in the depths of our very being, to become pregnant with Him in the wombs of our hearts, so that the others that we visit and encounter might know Him.

But this is not always easy and is often difficult. Today, just as 2000 years ago, Jesus can be a deeply disconcerting figure, a sign of contradiction with the way of the world. As much as people struggle and suffer in this world, all too often they prefer wandering in the desert or a life of slavery to worldly concerns, they prefer the illness to the cure, they are afraid to let go and detach and put things in proper priority.

So -- Who is Jesus, What is Jesus, Why should we care, Why should anyone care? Which brings us to episode one of the Catholicism series, Amazed and Afraid: the Revelation of God Become Man.

After watching, we’ll have a group discussion. If our response to Jesus should be relationship, I’ll ask about what are the various kinds of relationship we might have with the Lord. Fr. Barron only touches briefly on the “Afraid” part in the title, so we can explore that further. If evangelization is about proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ, what about those who already believe in Jesus, although they may not be Catholic, do we need to engage in evangelization with our Protestant brothers and sisters? And another question I will put to you is an unsettling question that perhaps might add to that “afraid” part, and it is this – Are you willing to suffer and die with Jesus Christ?

No comments: