Friday, Nov. 15
Sunday, Nov. 24, the Solemnity of Christ the King, will bring to a close this current liturgical year for the Church as we prepare to begin our “New Year” with the First Sunday of Advent on the following weekend. The Solemnity of Christ the King this year has an additional important significance. It will bring to a close the “Year of Faith” proclaimed by Pope Benedict XVI.
The conclusion of the Year of Faith, however, is really not an ending but a whole new beginning. It is the beginning of our renewed efforts in the work of the New Evangelization. The Year of Faith was called in order to prepare us for the work of evangelization, strengthened in our own faith. It has laid a foundation for the work ahead. This is a point that must be emphasized.
So often in the Church we begin a program, follow it through to its conclusion and then pat ourselves on the back and say, “Well that was good,” and then quickly move on with our life with its normal routine. With the Year of Faith and the New Evangelization it cannot be so. Something needs to change. Something needs to last.
Coinciding with the Year of Faith, Pope Benedict did two other things that are meant to endure. He established an entirely new pontifical council to promote the New Evangelization. This council has already been hard at work at the highest level of the Church to develop ways to evangelize baptized Catholics first, and through them the wider culture.
Secondly, he dedicated the worldwide ordinary synod of bishops last year to the theme of the New Evangelization. We are still awaiting the publication of the conclusions of that synod which will come at the hands of our new Holy Father, Pope Francis. I am anxiously awaiting that document, which will help us chart our own course here in the Archdiocese of Portland. We will be united with our fellow Catholics throughout the country and throughout the world in this tremendous undertaking.
So we are only on the verge of a new beginning as we come to the end of this Year of Faith. As we prepare for the work of evangelization, I hope we have come to realize during this past year the importance of our own conversion and need for personal renewal and recommitment to our Faith. I said in my homily at the Mass of my installation as your new archbishop that we will never convince the world of Jesus Christ and the truth of our Faith if we ourselves are not convinced and enthusiastic in its proclamation.
Confidence. That is the word that keeps coming to me as I pray and reflect on our call to evangelization. We Catholics need to regain confidence in our Faith and in our witness to it. By this I don’t mean an arrogance or sinful pride. But we need to be properly proud of our faith in Jesus Christ, his Gospel and the truths of our Faith, and confident in proclaiming and bearing witness to it.
We may feel beaten down in many ways, and this can cause a certain attitude of defeatedness or resignation to the status quo. No! This cannot be the attitude of a believer. We are called to be a people of hope and promise for the future. We have what the world needs and that for which it longs. This is nothing less than Jesus Christ and his message of salvation, bringing hope and light to those who walk sometimes in the darkness of meaninglessness and often despair.
And so we begin the real work for which the Year of Faith has tried to prepare us. We must do this work together, united in a common effort. We need unity and communion, while respecting our legitimate differences of culture and perspective. But we do need unity. The more we pick at each other and emphasize our differences, pitting one against another, the less effective we will be in the work of evangelization. Plain and simple, we must be one as Jesus called us to be.
I pray for our local Church in Western Oregon every day. On every Tuesday, however, I offer a special day of prayer, penance and sacrifice for all of the faithful entrusted to my care. For what do I pray as your shepherd? It is this: I pray for our sanctification, that we become holy. I pray for our fervent and zealous growth in faith, hope and love. And I pray that the Holy Spirit be poured out upon us, creating among us a profound communion and unity, setting our hearts on fire for the work of the New Evangelization.
At the heart of all of this is Jesus Christ. We must never lose sight of who we are in relation to Him and why we are so passionate about spreading the Good News and bringing as many as we can into the Church. We are not, as Pope Francis keeps reminding us, just another NGO doing good works. We are the community of Christ The Lord.
Soon we will celebrate the coming of the Son of God among us as a man. He came to save us from our sins and from eternal death and to open up for us the way to eternal life and happiness with God forever in the Kingdom of Heaven. It’s that simple. It is this simple message of God’s love and mercy that we proclaim. So now we begin. With our hearts burning with Christ’s love, let’s set the world on fire!