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The Way, the Truth, and the Life
March 10, 2005
 
Most Reverend John J. Myers
Archbishop of Newark

I am the way and the truth and the life.
No one comes to the Father except through me.
(John 14:6)

Jesus approached and said to them, “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”
(Matthew 28:18-20)
 

Evangelization in Jesus Christ
Jesus Christ, “the Way, the Truth, and the Life” is the beginning and the end of all evangelization. The goal of all evangelization is to bring all peoples and all things into one in Him (cf. Ephesians 1:9-10). The unity and communion we seek is a reflection of the unity and communion of the Triune God. This was Jesus’ hope for us when he prayed on Holy Thursday “that all may be one as you, Father, are in me, and I in you; I pray that they may be one in us, that the world may believe that you sent me” (John 17:21).

In and through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection this communion has been made available for humankind. The Church, the community of people in friendship with God, is both a sign and an instrument of this unity. As sign she is called to give witness to the possibility of real loving communion. Our communion with each other and with the Lord in the Church is a foretaste of the heavenly communion for which we yearn. As instrument, the Church, and each of her members, is called to proclaim the good news of Jesus to the entire world.

Our local Church, the Archdiocese of Newark, has the great privilege and the great duty to share with our neighbors, families, and friends the good news of Jesus Christ. This letter is addressed to all the faithful of the Archdiocese as a reflection on our duty to evangelize.

What is evangelization?
Evangelization is the sharing of the good news of Jesus Christ with those who have not yet effectively heard the Gospel. In one sense, it is missionary activity Ad Gentes (to the nations), bringing Christ to peoples who do not know Him. In another, it is proclaiming Him in our own families, neighborhoods, and workplaces.

Without in any way diminishing the urgent need for commitment to the mission Ad Gentes, this second, broader mission is of vital importance. John Paul II calls this type of missionary activity the “new evangelization” or “re-evangelization.” Re-evangelization is focused on proclaiming the good news in countries (like our own) with historical Christian roots where “…entire groups of the baptized have lost a living sense of the faith or even no longer consider themselves members of the Church and live a life far removed from Christ and his Gospel” (Redemptoris missio, 33).

Who are called to evangelize?
To evangelize is to proclaim Jesus Christ and him crucified “in season and out” (2 Timothy 4:2) to all the world near and far. Who is called to missionary activity? The answer is quite clearly stated in the Scriptures, the documents of the Second Vatican Council, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and the teaching of John Paul II: each Christian is called to mission by virtue of his or her baptism. There is no avoiding this simple and explicit teaching. We are called to missionary activity. As the Second Vatican Council’s document on missions, Ad Gentes, says:

For, wherever they live, all Christians are bound to show forth, by the example of their lives and by the witness of their speech, that new man which they put on in baptism, and that power of the Holy Spirit by whom they were strengthened at confirmation. Thus other men, observing their good works can glorify the Father (cf. Mt. 5:16) and can better perceive the real meaning of human life and the bond which ties the whole community of mankind together (Ad Gentes, 11).

John Paul II has applied this universal mandate to proclaim Christ to Christian communities as well. For from the family, the smallest and most important Christian community, to the parish community, the local church and beyond, all are called to mission. The Holy Father went so far as to state in his message for World Mission Sunday:

No Christian community is faithful to its duty unless it is missionary: either it is a Missionary Community or it is not even a Christian community, because these are simply two dimensions of the same reality, which is brought about by baptism and by the other sacraments (Papal Message for World Mission Day, October 20, 1991, “Mission: The Right and Duty of Every Christian”).

All are called to “labor in the Lord’s Vineyard” (cf. Matthew 20:1 ff). By our baptism, we share in the mission of Jesus Christ—to reveal to the world the love of the Father. In Jesus, we all share in his priestly, prophetic, and kingly office. As priests we offer spiritual sacrifice and praise. As kings, we rule over and sanctify that part of God’s kingdom entrusted to our care. As prophets, we proclaim the good news and give witness to God’s saving power at work in us and in the world.

Why evangelize?
The short answer to the question, “Why evangelize?” is because love demands it. We have experienced the love poured out on us in Christ Jesus. We wish to share this love and help others to come to friendship with God.

It is Catholic teaching, restated at the Second Vatican Council, that God’s grace—his supernatural help unto salvation—is offered to everyone “in a way known to God alone” (Gaudium et spes, 22). Thus, it is our hope that all men and women cooperate with God’s grace. While God does not limit his love and his grace to those who are formally Christian, the ordinary way for men and women to find salvation is in an explicit faith in Christ Jesus; for it is only in Him that we find the fullness of truth and life. Anyone who is saved, the Scriptures and the Church teach, is saved through Jesus Christ, Son of God and Son of Man.

Thus, to fail to evangelize because of the mistaken notion that “everyone is saved” is both presumptuous and uncharitable: presumptuous because it assumes that God will provide salvific grace in extraordinary ways, uncharitable because it leaves people in ignorance and denies them the many sources of grace available in the Church.

The false notions which have caused a very discernable waning of missionary activity, “an identity crisis” and a “lack of motivation” in the Church’s mission, must be dismissed. As the Holy Father wrote in his first encyclical:

The Church’s fundamental function in every age and particularly in ours is to direct man’s gaze, to point the awareness and experience of the whole of humanity towards the mystery of God, to help man to be familiar with the profundity of the redemption taking place in Christ Jesus (Redemptor hominis, 10).

To John Paul II, the fundamental function of the Church is missionary. The Church must make her own the urgent cry of Paul: “Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!” (cf. 1 Corinthians 9:16).

Where do we evangelize?
By now it must be clear that missionary activity is not an option for Christians. It is at the heart of the Gospel! St. John Chrysostom went so far as to say:

I cannot believe in the salvation of anyone who does not work for his or her neighbor’s salvation. How can such a person who does nothing for anybody else really be a Christian? (Bishop James Malone, "The Basics of Re-Evangelization,", Origins [Vol. 21: No. 11] August 15, 1992, 183.)

But, one may wonder, where does one begin in one’s role as missionary?

Evangelization, like charity, begins at home. The “hidden evangelization” that occurs within the family is essential. Parents are the first educators and evangelists for their children. Mothers and fathers who teach their children prayers, who explain the meaning of the Christmas crib and the cross, are true evangelizers. The atmosphere of unconditional merciful love along with the countless sacrifices that parents make everyday gives witness to their children of how God loves them. Thus the home, “the domestic church,” is an indispensable place for sharing the good news.

In addition to the home, there is the Church. Everything in our parish life should be ordered towards sharing the good news. Our schools and educational programs have this as a primary focus. Our programs for adult initiation and education strive to share the Gospel with those inquiring into the mystery of Christ. The life of the parish itself should radiate Jesus Christ in word and sacrament to the entire neighborhood. Particularly, the willingness and openness of the parish community, to serve “the least among us” should give witness to Jesus’ compassionate love.

There is also the workplace, the marketplace, and our various associations and friendships. One of the most effective forms of evangelization today is “the apostolate of like to like.” Who better to share the good news of Jesus Christ than someone who shares a friendship and way of life with another? When we are friends with another, we naturally wish to share with them all the most important aspects of our life. We share our passions and our beliefs. Chief among these should be our relationship with Jesus. The old adage “make a friend, be a friend, bring a friend to Jesus” is a very effective way of sharing the good news.

How do we evangelize?
We evangelize through docility to the Holy Spirit that leads us to dialogue and witness. Through docility to the Holy Spirit we are transformed to become “other Christs” (cf. Galatians 2:20). The presence of the Holy Spirit is essential to every aspect of evangelization. Jesus promises us that “the Advocate, the Holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name—He will teach you everything and remind you of all that (I) told you” (John 14: 26). The Holy Father describes it in this fashion:

This spirituality is expressed first of all by a life of complete docility to the Spirit. It commits us to being molded from within by the Spirit, so that we may become ever more like Christ. It is not possible to bear witness to Christ without reflecting his image, which is made alive in us by grace and the power of the Spirit. This docility then commits us to receive the gifts of fortitude and discernment, which are essential elements of missionary spirituality (Redemptoris missio, 87).

The Gospel must first have permeated our lives before we can pass it on to others.

Jesus Christ is the goal and the means of evangelization. For us to be evangelizers, to authentically be bearers of his message, we first must allow Christ to enter our lives and transform our lives. Christ must be within us before we can dare to bring Him to others. To allow Christ to enter our lives and to transform them requires humility and docility to his message on our part. Building on the words of the Gospel, “Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses it will save it” (Luke 17:33), the Second Vatican Council teaches that “Man cannot find himself except through a sincere gift of himself” (Gaudium et spes, 24). Trusting in our faith in Christ, we must surrender our very selves to Him. In this self-surrender to Christ, we offer our selves with Him in the Eucharist. In this radical act of losing ourselves in Christ, we Catholics find our true selves.

As we are transformed by Christ’s love, we desire more and more to share Our Beloved with others. Like St. Paul we are compelled to go forth to bring others to Him. Our first encounters with others will often take the form of dialogue. John Paul II has recommended St. Paul’s speech at the Areopagus (marketplace) in Athens (and at Lystra) as a model of missionary activity (Acts 17:16-34). Here, Paul enters into “dialogue” with the cultural and religious values of the Athenians. He attempts to show them that God is already present in their lives as Creator and Sustainer of all things. But to recognize Him as He really is, the Athenians must abandon their false gods or the false notion of God, which they have made. One can easily see parallels to the false gods of the modern, secular world.

The Holy Father makes reference to many areas in need of evangelization. These he calls modern - day equivalents of the Areopagus. Redemptoris missio lists first and foremost the world of communications. The mass media is quickly establishing the “global village” and in many ways conditioning the way people look at this new world. Other areas cited as forms of the modern Areopagus are the peace movement, the environmental movement, the various liberation movements, the human rights movements, the feminist movements, and the “new age” religious movements. The Holy Father also mentions the “immense Areopagus” of scientific culture and intellectual relations. All these areas are in need of evangelization through dialogue.

Dialogue of this sort brings into contact two or more persons sincerely searching for the truth. The Christian comes to these encounters as a “fellow seeker” of truth. He or she knows that there is much to be learned from the other. But the Christian also knows that he or she has much to share. Having encountered and been encountered by Jesus, Christians bring the light of the Gospel to these discussions. Because the Gospel can never be imposed on another’s freedom, the dialogue provides an opportunity to propose the truth of the Gospel.

Along with dialogue, and perhaps even more important, is witness. There is first the witness of those called to a specific missionary vocation Ad Gentes. As the Second Vatican Council states:

Although the task of spreading the faith, to the best of one’s ability, falls to each disciple of Christ, the Lord always calls from the number of his disciples those whom he wishes, so that they may be with him and that he may send them to preach to the nations. Accordingly, through the Holy Spirit, who distributes his gifts as he wishes for the good of all, Christ stirs up a missionary vocation in the hearts of individuals and at the same time raises up in the Church those institutes which undertake the duty of evangelization, which is the responsibility of the whole church, as their special task (Ad Gentes, 23).

I can think of no better way to spend one’s life than in total dedication to missionary proclamation of the Gospel. If this is your call, follow it! Make a “total gift” of yourself to Christ and his Church. As the Holy Father states:

[A missionary vocation] is manifested in a total commitment to evangelization, a commitment which involves the missionary’s whole person and life, and demands a self- giving without limits of energy or time (Redemptoris missio, 65).

What of the rest of us who do not receive this call? We are called to be missionaries in our own places and towns. This will mainly take place through the way we live our lives. As St. Francis of Assisi taught: “Preach always! When necessary use words.” Ultimately the most successful form of evangelization and mission is the personal witness of a holy life. As the Holy Father writes, “People today put more trust in witness than in teachers, in experience than in teaching, and in life and action than in theory” (Redemptoris missio, 42). To put it simply, the true missionary is the saint!

Since each Christian is called to be a missionary, each one of us is also called to be a saint. We must lead others to “the way” by our personal example of a holy, joy-filled life in Christ.

For you who are married and have dedicated yourself to the great vocation of “spouse and parent” you must witness to the truth about conjugal love. You must show the world the joy of Christian motherhood and fatherhood, of fidelity to your spouse, of openness and loving acceptance of the great gift of human life, of dedication to the education and rearing of Christian children, and of holy and good friendships.

For you who are called into the workplace and the professional world you must strive to sanctify the world through your work offered to God in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. You must witness to Christian values in the marketplace, the academy, government, the hospitals, and the courts.
You who are called by God to live a consecrated life have a special obligation to missionary activity. As the Holy Father writes:

The Church needs to make known the great Gospel values of which she is the bearer. No one witnesses more effectively to these values than those who profess the consecrated life in chastity, poverty, and obedience in a total gift of self to God and in complete readiness to serve man and society after the example of Christ (Redemptoris missio, 69).

Consecrated life is a powerful witness to the truth that the “earthly treasure” of power, wealth, glory, and sensual pleasure are of fleeting importance compared with the “heavenly treasure” of a God-centered life.

Bishops, priests, religious and deacons are called to preach and teach the whole of the Gospel. We are to offer the sacraments to feed, heal, and strengthen the pilgrim people of God as they strive to fight the good fight of faith. In our own lives we are called to believe what we teach, to practice what we preach.
But whatever one’s personal vocation is, he or she is called to holiness and to mission. Each person, with his or her own personal vocation, must be totally dedicated to living a unified, holy life and to teach others, especially entire families, to do likewise. As the Holy Father writes:

The first form of witness is the very life of the missionary, of the Christian family and of the ecclesial community, which reveal a new way of living. The missionary who despite all his or her human limitations and defects, lives a simple life taking Christ as the model is a sign of God and of transcendent realities. But everyone in the Church striving to imitate the Divine Master can and must bear this kind of witness. (Redemptoris missio, 42).

The task of missionary activity and evangelization is a vast undertaking. It would be impossible, even unthinkable, if Jesus did not promise that He would be with us to the end of time. In this undertaking the laity play an essential role, perhaps the most vital role.

Obstacles to evangelization
There are many obstacles to evangelization. Most of these are internal to each Christian and to the Christian community; our own sinfulness acts as a countersign to the Gospel. Concupiscence, the tendency to sin that remains in us even after baptism, is difficult to overcome. A lukewarm heart and lack of fraternal charity can make us less than totally fervent to share the Gospel.

Honesty demands of us a sincere recognition of the limits within our communities as well. The divisions among Christians obscure the gospel call to unity. The many failings of our Church and its members have led others astray. In all of this we must as individuals and as a community acknowledge our sinfulness and strive to genuine renewal and transformation. We must be able to say, “Be patient, God is not through with us yet.”

But in addition to internal obstacles, there are external difficulties that we face. Culturally, many recognize that we live in a society that is not fully supportive of the Christian life; in fact, it is in some ways hostile to it. Over recent decades, political and social supports for religion have been eroding and many social policies have been enacted that are antithetical to our Catholic faith and ethics. In our increasingly pluralistic environment, many demand that religion be reduced to a strictly private realm, on the specious ground that it might possibly introduce discord into society. Others believe that all religions are basically the same.

Yet we know that all religions are not equal or compatible. Either Jesus is Lord or He is not. Both cannot be true. To paraphrase St. Augustine: Either He is the Lord of all or He is not the Lord at all. In addition, authentic religion can never be merely a private matter because by nature we are social beings and must live out our lives in community.

The first evangelists, the apostles and the disciples, faced similar difficulties. The Roman Empire, in the name of pluralism and concord, recognized all gods as equal. Early Christians, frequently persecuted by the Roman Empire, were offered the option to recognize Christ as a god among other gods. They recognized that such a “compromise” would deny Christ, who is the unique Savior of the World and the only way to salvation and eternal life. Many often gave witness to their belief through martyrdom.

While respecting the faith of others and recognizing the inviolability of their consciences and their right to religious liberty, we cannot fall into the false trap that considers all religions as equally true. Faithful to the teaching authority of the Church, authentic evangelizers show forth the joy and freedom that comes from a personal relationship with Christ. Reflecting on our Holy Father’s encyclical Redemptoris missio, the instruction Dominus Iesus summarizes this reality well.

When the words and experience of evangelization are ungrounded in the Person of Christ, there is a danger of relativism…As a remedy for this relativistic mentality, which is becoming ever more common, it is necessary above all to reassert the definitive and complete character of the revelation of Jesus Christ. In fact, it must be firmly believed that, in the mystery of Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Son of God, who is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6), the full revelation of divine truth is given.

Thus, the Encyclical Redemptoris missio calls the Church once again to the task of announcing the Gospel as the fullness of truth: “In this definitive Word of his revelation, God has made himself known in the fullest possible way. He has revealed to mankind who he is. This definitive self-revelation of God is the fundamental reason why the Church is missionary by her very nature. She cannot do other than proclaim the Gospel, that is, the full know about himself” (Redemptoris missio, 5). Only the revelation missio, 5). Only the revelation of Jesus Christ, therefore, “introduces into our history a universal and ultimate truth which stirs the human mind to ceaseless effort” (Fides et ratio, 14). (Dominus Iesus, 4, 5)

In an atmosphere that regards every opinion as a “truth,” evangelization is never easy. But we must be careful not to fall into the trap of blaming the prevalent culture for our lack of success. While we are obligated to point out the dangers of individualism, secularism, hedonism, relativism, and other negative forces, we cannot overlook the deep religious hunger that stirs the hearts of our fellow men and women.

Secularization ironically has produced a religious emptiness in many parts of our society, an emptiness that yearns to be filled. The idea that everyone has his or her own “truth” does not satisfy basic human needs. Dissatisfied with such relativism, many realize the foolishness of asserting that contradictory views are equally “true.” Many, especially the young, seek answers to the mystery of life. This gives us Christians the opportunity to show them that Christ is the answer to humanity’s questions, that He is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life” (Acts 14:15-17; 17:22-31). Our culture provides obstacles, but it also provides opportunities. There is much that is good in our culture not the least of which is our dedication to religious liberty.

In the midst of all the discussion about our secularizing society, it is good to remember that our nation has always been a religious nation. While few of our founding fathers were Catholics, they were genuinely religious men. “For [Jefferson] and the other founding fathers, the good of society requires a people who believe in one almighty God, in providence in a divinely given moral code, in a future life, and in divinely administered rewards and punishments” (Avery Cardinal Dulles, “The Deist Minimum” in First Things, January 2005, Number 149, 30). Most Americans share these basic beliefs today, even if it often seems unpopular to articulate them. Perhaps our role as Catholic Christians is to give a clear consistent voice to these gospel values.

Evangelical action within our families and parishes
As a local church we must attempt to share the good news with everyone. Of particular immediate concern are our families, those who have not received all the Sacraments of Initiation, those who have fallen away, and our own prayer, sacrifice and personal sanctification.

Our families
Parents must ensure that their children receive education in the faith so that, nourished by prayer and authentic teaching, they will be transformed into true disciples. As stated above, parents are the first teachers of their children. Where necessary, they must be assisted in learning or relearning the teachings and traditions of the Catholic faith so that they can pass them on to their children.

Family members also are in a unique position to reach out to relatives whose faith has weakened or who have strayed from the Christian life to offer them the support they need once again to encounter the Risen Christ through the ministry of the Church.

The family needs support in this endeavor. The parish is the indispensable source of support for the family and the most important resource for evangelization. The entire range of parish education, schools, religious education, and adult education, can be an enormously effective agent of evangelization. Pastors have a significant role in assisting the teachers and catechists under their care in the transformation of their lives and attitudes, in recognizing their responsibility to engage in the work of spreading the Gospel of Christ. Our parishes must be examples of cooperation and solidarity as they share the many gifts that each possesses for the greater good of the whole. This solidarity extends to cooperation among parishes in evangelization efforts. Solidarity and discipleship together drive evangelization.

The parishioners of the Archdiocese of Newark come from every corner of the globe. Each person should be welcomed and made to feel a part of the life of every parish. When we seek to understand and respect the religious customs and traditions of new immigrants we reaffirm their human dignity, affirm them in their faith, and welcome them into our communion. Our unity does not mean that we are all the same. Our unity is a reflection of the life of the Trinity, three Persons in one God, each separate and distinct, each having a different self-gift, and yet so unified that they form the one Godhead. So, too, it must be with us.

I counsel all evangelizers to respect the manifold forms of authentic popular piety that newcomers bring. “(W)hen hearts are united, the result is a great force for good. To be rooted in what is ancient, strong, profound, and, at the same time, dear to the heart, gives an extraordinary interior energy” (Pope John Paul II, Rise, Let Us Be On Our Way, p. 180). Our great task, while always open to the future, is to cultivate sound traditions with an affectionate respect for the past.

Those who have not yet received all the Sacraments of Initiation
It is heartbreaking to realize that there are thousands in this Archdiocese who have received the seal of Baptism, but for many reasons, often beyond their control, never have received the Eucharist. Perhaps it was the strain of a difficult migration to this country and problems of language that continually postponed preparation for and the first reception of the Eucharist.

To pastors and all evangelizers, I say “Seek out your brothers and sisters who have never received the nourishment of the Eucharist.” To those who have not received the Lord I say “Fill your hearts and your souls with the Eucharistic Lord. Come to the table, your Lord is waiting for you and is expecting you.”

Let us make the experience of coming into Eucharistic unity as joy-filled as possible. In this Year of the Eucharist, our efforts of re-evangelization must focus on Christ present in our celebration and always present in the Sacrament of the Altar. The participation of many Catholics, especially those actively involved in evangelization and re-evangelization, in parish, regional, and archdiocesan observances that celebrate the Year of the Eucharist will be a source of grace for them and witness to those to whom they endeavor to bring the message of the Gospel.

It also is disheartening to realize that even more of our baptized brothers and sisters have never completed the Sacraments of Initiation, have never received the Holy Spirit in the Sacrament of Confirmation. A recent study tells us that up to 40 percent of young adult non-Latino Catholics and up to 60 percent of Latino Catholics in this age group have never received the sacrament of Confirmation. The study also shows that confirmed Catholics are more inclined to remain in and grow in the Church (Dean R. Hoge, William D. Dinges, Mary Johnson, S.N.D. de N., and Juan L. Gonzales, Jr., Young Adult Catholics: Religion in the Culture of Choice, p. 116).

Thanks be to God, the overwhelming majority of these young people, whether they attend Mass regularly or not, consider themselves Catholics. But it is sad to think how impoverished their spiritual lives as Catholics must be. For most, Confirmation is the completion of the Rites of Initiation into the family of the Church. It is an occasion on which the gifts of the Holy Spirit enter the life of the person confirmed. “The effect of the sacrament of Confirmation is the full outpouring of the Holy Spirit as once granted to the apostles on the day of Pentecost. From this fact, Confirmation brings an increase and deepening of baptismal grace” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1302-1303).

For about half of our young people never to have received the grace of the Holy Spirit in Confirmation is a scandal. Somehow over the last decades, our catechesis, our evangelization, has failed our people. Perhaps we have shown too much concern for the “completion of programs” and not enough concern to allow the Holy Spirit to enter the lives of young people through this sacrament. In any event, we have the opportunity, and all of us have the responsibility, to bring them to the possession of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Fallen-away Catholics
A special effort should be made by all to reach out to baptized Catholics who for whatever reason have left active practice of their faith. They are our brothers and sisters in Christ and the lack of active communion with them hurts everyone in the community. It makes us all less. “If one member of the Body suffers all suffer” (1 Corinthians 12:26).

Pastors often do not know who the fallen away are. This is one area where the laity have a special obligation. It will most likely be a friend or family member who helps another find the way home. Invite those you know who have fallen away to come back. Invite them to receive the embrace of a loving God in the sacrament of Penance. Even if they have not celebrated this comforting sacrament in many years, encourage them to see it as a vehicle of return to the practice of the faith, a vehicle of renewal and rebirth. Go with them to the sacrament of penance if necessary to help them overcome any hesitation or obstacle.

Last year, here in the Archdiocese of Newark, we established a task force to identify ways to implement evangelization in this local church. As a result of the work of the task force, the Office of Evangelization was established. The task force also recommended that every parish become an evangelizing parish. To assist the parishes in this effort, we chose a program, “Why Catholic?” from RENEW International. Also available is “Disciples in Mission,” from the Paulist National Catholic Evangelization Association. I join the task force in recommending these programs.

Prayer and sacrifice for evangelization
As we seek to transform the lives of others, we should be mindful that all of us, bishops, priests, deacons, religious, laity, have the responsibility to transform our lives so that our actions and activities will be directed to the goal of showing the mystery of Christ and his Church to all whom we encounter.
Our ministry of re-evangelization begins with our own personal renewal, our own re-dedication to the Gospel. “Without doubt a mending of the Christian fabric of society is urgently needed in all parts of the world. But for this to come about what is needed is to first remake the Christian fabric of the ecclesial community itself present in these countries and nations” (Christifideles laici, 34). Open to the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives and living the message of Christ, we will be able to show Christ to the world as the “Way, the Truth, and the Life.”

Filled with the Holy Spirit, we Christians should never tire of offering prayer and sacrifices to God and advocating that others do likewise. However, I am afraid that we, including bishops, do not speak enough about the efficacy of prayer and sacrifices offered to God. But Scripture constantly witnesses to its importance. Jesus Himself fasted and prayed. He told his disciples that some demons could only be cast out by fasting and prayer. Paul specifically asked for prayers for his mission.

An excellent modern example of this kind of spiritual cooperation is St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus, the “Little Flower.” Because of her love and dedication to prayer and suffering offered for the missions, she is rightly proclaimed as co-patroness of the missions although she was never sent to them. I ask all the faithful of the Archdiocese to be men and women of deep prayer and particularly ask you to pray and sacrifice for the successful spread of the Gospel in our local Church and throughout the world.

Conclusion
This year has been proclaimed by John Paul II as the Year of the Eucharist. Every Sunday, the Risen Christ asks us to meet Him once more in the Upper Room where, on the evening of “the first day of the week” (John 20:19) he appeared to his disciples in order to “breathe” on them his life-giving Spirit and launch them on the great adventure of proclaiming the Gospel.

What a privilege this is! To be with the Lord and one another, to hear His word, to receive Him in the Eucharist, and to worship together as one family.

This privilege demands to be shared. Love compels us to attempt to extend our communion. We might not be successful in our efforts. That is relatively unimportant. Success is not a Gospel term. After all, we follow a crucified Savior. In the words of our Holy Father:

“Let us go forward in hope!...We can count on the power of the same Spirit who was poured out at Pentecost and who impels us still today to start out anew, sustained by the hope ‘which does not disappoint’” (Romans 5:5). (Novo millennio ineunte, 58) Hope does not disappoint. We will “set out into the deep” with the Lord to bring Him to others.

The Risen Jesus accompanies us on our way and enables us to recognize Him, as the disciples at Emmaus did, “in the breaking of the bread” (Luke 24:35). Their hearts burned with love as they listened to Jesus teaching them the meaning of the Scriptures. May He find us watchful, ready to recognize His face and may we run to our brothers and sisters with the good news: “We have seen the Lord!” (John 20:25).

Given at my Chancery on March 3, 2005                                                                                   

 

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