It seems I broke a promise in not posting the first part of my take on Cardnial Dolan’s speech on the New Evangelization from last week (get the full text here). My apologies. I really don’t have an excuse; I just got caught up in watching The Dark Knight for the millionth time (hmmm…I’m sensing a post relating that to JPII’s Springtime of Evangelization…). To reward your patience, you can expect 2 entries today: pillars 1-3 now, and 4-6 later today. Number 7 will still be for tomorrow.
To recap, last week Cardinal Dolan of New York City gave a speech to the College of Cardinals in Rome. The topic was the New Evangelization, a term coined by Blessed Pope John Paul II. The New Evangelization focuses on re-proclaiming the Gospel to cultures and people who have grown up in the Church but have experienced a falling away or lukewarmness in their faith, who have heard the Good News but need a refresher. In his speech, Cardinal Dolan outlined 7 ideas to take the New Evangelization to the next level. So without further ado, let’s get this ball rolling.
What Cardinal Dolan said:
“…we believe with the philosophers and poets of old, who never had the benefit of revelation, that even a person who brags about being secular and is dismissive of religion, has within an undeniable spark of interest in the beyond, and recognizes that humanity and creation is a dismal riddle without the concept of some kind of creator.”
Quite simply, we were created to search for God. His presence is all around us, and yet sometimes we attempt to attribute the beauty of Creation to a coincidence. I think what Cardinal Dolan is saying here is that even those who seem beyond evangelizing to: the scientists, the philosophers, basically anyone smarter than us, are still in need of salvation. No one is beyond our efforts to evangelize.
Sometimes, I think we are intimidated by evangelization. We don’t want to step on anyone’s toes, to make anyone feel uncomfortable. But we need to do it anyway! (more on that in a moment) Jesus calls us to spread the Gospel to all nations and all peoples. That doesn’t mean one person from each person group, but every single person on this Earth! God loves each and every person in this world perfectly. And Jesus tells us to “be perfect, as your heavenly father is perfect” (Mt. 5:48).
No matter how lost someone may seem, no matter how much they despise the Church, these people are still searching for Something. That Something is God. We must keep that in mind during our encounters with those around us.
Cardinal Dolan: “this fact gives us immense confidence and courage in the
sacred task of mission and New Evangelization. “Be not afraid,” we’re told, is the most repeated exhortation in the Bible. After the Council, the good news was that triumphalism in the Church was dead. The bad news was that, so was confidence!”
When St. Joseph found out Mary was pregnant, he wanted to divorce her. But in a dream an angel appeared to him and told him not to be afraid (see Mt. 1 for the full story). Without St. Joseph’s courage, we may not even have a Gospel to proclaim. Without his protection of the Holy Family, the infant Jesus could have been slaughtered by King Herod (see Mt. 2). And to think if he had just divorced our Blessed Mother.
We too must not be afraid. Is evangelizing awkward? Absolutely. Will we be met with opposition? You betcha. But we have the Truth! Why should we fear? We get our confidence from Christ, and while we must be careful not to be arrogant, we can be sure that when we spread the Gospel, we are doing God’s will. Thankfully, it is not us who change hearts, but Christ working through us.
But don’t assume that just because we do this or do that that everyone around us will magically turn to Christ. Humility is essential in our lives and in our mission to evangelize. When I get a little high on my horse (which happens more often than I would like to admit…) this quote from St. Josemaria Escriva really helps me:
“Don’t forget that you are just a trash can. So if by any chance the divine gardener should lay his hands on you, and scrub and clean you, and fill you with magnificent flowers, neither the scent nor the colors that beautify your ugliness should make you proud. Humble yourself: don’t you know that you are a trash can?”
I am a trashcan. All my gifts come from God. Often times my pride gets in the way of leading others to Christ. Instead of lovingly encouraging others to see the Truth, I force them through debate to admit that I am right. I’ve found that to be a very ineffective way to evangelize. But I continue to seek God’s grace to change my heart and humble myself.
“A third necessary ingredient in the recipe of effective mission is that God does not satisfy the thirst of the human heart with a proposition, but with a Person, whose name is Jesus. The invitation implicit in the Missio ad gentes and the New Evangelization is not to a doctrine but to know, love, and serve — not a something, but a Someone.”
We need to keep in mind that we are not simply trying to convince people to think or act a particular way. When we evangelize, we invite people to have a relationship with our Lord and Savior. Talk of fire and brimstone does not, in my opinion, lead to very strong believers. The power of love conquers all, and it is that love which draws people to Christ. Our Church, our Faith is not simply a list of dos and don’ts, but an engine through which we enter into relationship with the King and Lord of Universe.
When we talk about the New Evangelization, the people we interact with are familiar with the nuts and bolts of our Church. They know what a Bible is, they’ve been to Mass, they’ve abstained from meat on Fridays. What they don’t have is love. They lack a personal relationship with Jesus. Our Evangelical Christian brothers and sisters have this down pat. They KNOW Jesus, and introduce Him to people around them. We do not offer a deal to people when we evangelize, but a person: Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God.
As always, comments are encouraged! Let me know what I’m doing wrong, and what I’m doing right! 🙂 Check back later today for the next 3 pillars from Cardinal Dolan’s speech.