This is the first in a weekly series explaining what Unleash the Gospel is and what it means for us.
Today we clearly are better at dealing with someone already sitting in our church pews than we are at getting anyone there in the first place. Our churches are strong on maintenance, weak on being missionary.
UNLEASH the GOSPEL wants us to move from MAINTENANCE TO MISSION
We need to become more deliberately, reflectively, and programmatically missionary within our own culture and to our own children. We need to become missionaries in our secular society in the very same way as we once sent missionaries off to faraway countries. The church in the secularized world needs a new kind of missionary.
What will this new kind of missionary need to bring? Before anything else, real faith. What we need are men and women who can walk the workplace, the marketplace, the universities and radiate a faith that is not infantile, over-protective, paranoid, colorless, or compromising. Their faith must be strong enough to not be defensive in the face of what our society says has value.
Beyond personal faith, today’s missionary will need: A new language for the unaffiliated generation, a new gospel approach to re-fire the romantic imagination of those taken in by the promises of the secular society, a new way to connect the gospel to the streets, a new way of moving beyond the personal to the building of a lasting community. We need a new way of connecting love and spirituality, justice and reverence, energy and wisdom, and a new way to combine God’s grace with His prophetic challenge.
We don’t yet have all of the answers but we need to work at it. This is no easy task but this is the Mission, given to the Church by Jesus Christ, but adapted to today’s reality.
This is the second in a weekly series explaining what Unleash the Gospel is and what it means for us.
Last week we discussed that UNLEASH the GOSPEL wants us to move from MAINTENANCE TO MISSION.
This week we will talk about what every pope since Vatican II called the New Evangelization.
Pope Francis, when he was still Archbishop of Buenos Aries, wrote: “The Church is called to a deep and profound rethinking of its mission… It cannot retreat in response to those who see only confusion, dangers, and threats… What is required is confirming, renewing, and revitalizing the newness of the Gospel…out of a personal and community encounter with Jesus Christ that raises up disciples and missionaries.”
The New Evangelization isn’t one program or objective among many. Rather, as Popes have recognized for over 40 years, the New Evangelization is the program, the objective, and the mission. Every other movement, every other program, apostolate, or ministry is meant to further it.
To see that, to see the New Evangelization as the great work of our age, should be to see the New Evangelization as the great work of our lives.
Unfortunately, despite all the popes’ urgings to take up the work of the New Evangelization, a good many Catholics have politely declined.
What Unleash the Gospel is doing is putting the New Evangelization front and center for every parish in the Archdiocese and ultimately for every Catholic in the Archdiocese.
This is the third in a weekly series explaining what Unleash the Gospel is and what it means to us.
What is the Missionary Nature of the Church?
The very last words Jesus spoke to his disciples before he ascended into heaven was the commission to evangelize all people: “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). This mandate defines the Church for all time.
Over the years we have slipped into a mode of maintenance. Not only here at Sacred Heart, but the Church in general. The term “New Evangelization”, coined by Saint Pope John Paul II, takes into account the fact that the Church in our time exists in a vastly changed situation from Christ’s time. It calls us to not only evangelize in distant lands, but in our own neighborhoods, workplaces, schools and even in our own homes. In Jesus’ time His mandate was addressed to his circle of disciples. Today, Jesus’ mandate is addressed to us all – bishops, priests, religious and every individual Catholic. The key word is – “US”.
Evangelization is, very simply, proclaiming the Good News of Jesus to those around us in both word and deed. In the last half century, the western world has become increasingly secularized and countless people have abandoned the faith into which they were baptized. In response, the Church has been ringing out a call for all Catholics to awaken to their baptismal identity as missionary disciples. All are being summoned to engage in a New Evangelization—a renewed proclamation of the Good News of Christ to the people of our time.
So, as you hear more detail from Archbishop Vigneron regarding Unleash the Gospel, remember that he is inviting ALL OF US to be part of the team to “Spread the Good News”.
This is the fourth in a weekly series explaining what Unleash the Gospel is and what it means for us.
This week we reflect on the roots of the crisis of faith, which go far beyond the boundaries of our local church. For the last several centuries, the western world has been abandoning its Christian foundations. Pope Benedict XVI said, “The real problem at this moment of our history is that God is disappearing from the human horizon, and, with the dimming of the light which comes from God, humanity is losing it bearings.” Our culture no longer supports faith, church attendance, and religious practice. The parish is no longer the center of social life, supported by cultural and ethnic traditions. Yet we continue to act as if we are planted in the soil of Christendom.
Many different belief systems have risen to popularity and are easily disseminated by our culture of open communication via TV, internet, and social media. Some subscribe to an approach where it is expected that everything can be proven scientifically, and that God, if he exists at all, does not intervene in the world. Some emphasize a system of moral and responsible behavior, but with no accountability to a God who is not seen as personally involved in our lives. Others believe that we are called to a human agenda of social progress, which does not consider any eternal consequences. Even for those who affirm that God exists, many are living as if God did not exist.
According to the Pew Research Center, the number of people who identify as having no particular religious affiliation (“nones”) jumped from 17% to 26% in 10 years. That’s more than a 50% increase. At last June’s meeting of the U.S. bishops, Auxiliary Bishop Robert E. Barron of Los Angeles painted a dramatic picture of the growing number of Catholics who are becoming “nones.” He told them that 50% of Catholics under the age of 30 have left the Church. For every person who converts to Catholicism six to seven people leave the Church. Clearly, something has to change.
To address this cultural shift, we cannot keep doing what we have always done. We will need to let go of our previous pastoral models and embrace new approaches that place our resources and processes at the service of evangelization and mission. Our goal is not simply self-preservation to keep our parishes viable, but rather our goal is to respond to the needs of the men and women of today. This is the mandate of Unleash the Gospel, to see this crisis as an opportunity to quench the thirst for God in the human heart.
This is the seventh in a series explaining what Unleash the Gospel is and what it means for us.
This week we will talk about what it means to evangelize:
We have talked about moving from Maintenance to Mission. The Mission is the great commission found at the end of Mathew’s Gospel where Jesus says; “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.” Making disciples is the very heart of the Great Commission. The trouble is that we as Catholics have delegated this task to a few missionaries and to our ordained ministers. We haven’t recognized that Jesus was charging us, the laity, with this task as well. Another problem is that most Catholics don’t understand what it means to be a disciple so how can we go and “make disciples”?
Disciple comes from the Latin discipulus and it means to learn but with the connotation that this learning process is not haphazard, but life-long, intentional and disciplined. So a Disciple is one who learns, who yearns to grow, who hungers for knowledge. We need to come to know Jesus personally ourselves; to have an encounter with Christ; to experience Christ.
Awakening this hunger is evangelization. To evangelize we need to be willing to talk about our faith journey. We need to invite our acquaintances, friends and relatives to Mass; to programs like Alpha where we get to know Jesus; to catechetical programs like Symbolon where we can grow our faith.
The Archbishop says that: “The engagement of every lay person, according to their gifts and state in life, is essential for the mission of the Church to be fulfilled. Each one should reflect on how the Lord is calling them to bring the Gospel into their particular spheres of influence both through their deeds and their words.”