The last command Jesus gave to his disciples was to carry the Gospel to the ends of the earth.
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.
From the very beginning, the Church that Jesus established has had this great mission to bring the message of peace and salvation to every people of every age. We too have been given this mission by the Lord, one whose task is to “re-evangelize” cultures that were once Christian.
Blessed Pope John Paul II described the situation that currently exists in these cultures: “Whole countries and nations where religion and the Christian life were formerly flourishing and capable of fostering a viable and working community of faith, are now put to a hard test, and in some cases, are even undergoing a radical transformation, as a result of a constant spreading of an indifference to religion, of secularism and atheism. This particularly concerns countries and nations of the so-called First World, in which economic well-being and consumerism, even if coexistent with a tragic situation of poverty and misery, inspires and sustains a life lived ‘as if God did not exist’. This indifference to religion and the practice of religion devoid of true meaning in the face of life's very serious problems, are not less worrying and upsetting when compared with declared atheism. Sometimes the Christian faith as well, while maintaining some of the externals of its tradition and rituals, tends to be separated from those moments of human existence which have the most significance, such as, birth, suffering and death.” (Christifideles Laici, n.34).
What is needed is a “new evangelization”, a task that the current pope, Benedict XVI, has affirmed. He wrote:“…to speak of a “new evangelization” does not in fact mean that a single formula should be developed that would hold the same for all circumstances. And yet it is not difficult to see that what all the Churches living in traditionally Christian territories need is a renewed missionary impulse, an expression of a new, generous openness to the gift of grace. Indeed we cannot forget that the first task will always be to make ourselves docile to the freely given action of the Spirit of the Risen One who accompanies all who are heralds of the Gospel and opens the hearts of those who listen. To proclaim fruitfully the Word of the Gospel one is first asked to have a profound experience of God.” (Ubicumque et Semper).
Here in the United States, the Bishops have identified three main goals of this New Evangelization, contained in their document, Go and Make Disciples.
- Goal 1: To bring about in all Catholics such an enthusiasm for their faith that, in living their faith in Jesus, they freely share it with others. (Go and Make Disciples, no. 89).
- Goal 2: To invite all people in the United States, whatever their social or cultural background, to hear the message of salvation in Jesus Christ so they may come to join us in the fullness of the Catholic faith. (Go and Make Disciples, no. 109).
- Goal 3: To foster gospel values in our society, promoting the dignity of the human person, the importance of the family and the common good of our society, so that our nation may continue to be transformed by the saving power of Jesus Christ. (Go and Make Disciples, no. 117).
In the Archdiocese of Washington, Cardinal Donald Wuerl has stressed the importance of this task as well. In his pastoral letter, Disciples of the Lord: Sharing the Vision, the Cardinal wrote: “Our archdiocesan efforts to share the good news and invite others into the joy of new life in Christ are not simply a new program— one among many. I hope all of us will see the New Evangelization as a lens through which we see everything that we are doing but now in the light of our understanding of how important it is for each of us to tell the story, share the excitement and be that leaven where the faith has gone flat and that salt where the faith has lost its zest.”
Here at the Church of the Little Flower, we must see that the parish is the center for this New Evangelization. In and through our parish, not only is faith shared, but at the heart of parish life is the initiation of all people who have heard the Good News into active participation in the sacramental, charitable and social life of our parish. As a parish, we can look at how this New Evangelization can take place in the areas of worship, education, service, community and administration. And for each of us as being Baptized in Christ, we can see how we can offer witness to the Good News of Jesus Christ to those whom we already know, be they family, friends or co-workers. All of us have a stake in this mission, for each of us has been called.