Mission to evangelize world is more urgent Print
Bishop Hying's Column
Written by Bishop Donald J. Hying   
Thursday, May. 28, 2020 -- 12:00 AM
Bishop Hying Logo

Note: Bishop Donald J. Hying is serializing his Pastoral Letter on the new Evangelization Initiative being launched in the Diocese of Madison. This is the first part of that letter.

Jesus Christ died for you. For you, the person receiving these words, God -- the Eternal Creator -- became a human being, entered into the messiness of humanity, lived, worked, loved, and prayed with those around him, and at the end of a young life, was unjustly condemned, cruelly tortured, and died as a criminal on a cross.

He did it for you.

Stop, even just for a second, and actually consider that.

You've likely heard it before -- maybe even a hundred or a thousand times -- but reconsider it; try to internalize it anew.

Now, consider your life. Is it fundamentally affected by the reality that God has such love for you? Does that truth cross your mind on a daily basis? It should. If we really consider that profound gift -- that the Lord of life, the Most High, has loved us -- it should change everything. But does it?

Does it matter to us that all the human condition involves -- even sin, suffering, and death -- has been redeemed? In His passion and suffering, Jesus Christ has transformed all that we suffer. He suffers with us, He "co-miserates," and there is great comfort in that.

But He also redeems us and that changes everything. Christ's Passion and death does not take away that which we endure, but it elevates it to the divine and transforms it. As our Lord promised, by taking up our crosses in the way that He did, we can also follow in His Resurrection and in Eternal Life.1 It changes the trajectory of human existence. It SHOULD change everything about the way we live. Fear, anxiety, pain, sorrow, all of it can be united to His. Hope of eternal life shatters our despair.

In recent times particularly, there has been a renewed focus on human suffering. A novel disease has brought immense distress, not just at the level of sickness and death, but also through isolation, depression, and the misery that can come from economic poverty. Families have been separated, the elderly left isolated, and individuals financially destitute. There has been an increase in domestic violence, civil unrest, and suicide.

In short, suffering has been on the rise and very much on our minds. Through all of this, people of faith have endured separation from one another and lacked the support of community and, most powerfully, the lack of ready access to Sacramental Grace. For those who have no moorings in revealed religion, this may not matter.

But for those with a faith founded upon the revelation of God in Jesus Christ, all of this suffering can come into a new and meaningful context. This recent health scare has made our essential mission to evangelize the world anew all the more urgent. We realize how much we need God.

Some individuals have experienced tremendous isolation, others have seen the stress of communal living brought to a boiling point as the challenges of family life or the frustrations of living with other imperfect human beings has compacted into an increasingly small space. And yet, many folks have felt anew our radical desire for Church, prayer, the Eucharist, and faith.

God desires community in humanity, but He desires communion that is life-giving. He desires a communion that takes our fallen reality and reconciles it. Christ offers us this salvation.

Consider that for most of human history, the notion even of there being ONE God (as opposed to a multitude of deities) was not widely understood. Over time, God revealed Himself to His chosen people. But even then, God was hidden. He revealed Himself to them slowly and in a mysterious manner.

Yes, He had His prophets, and through them He revealed Himself to the world through their mighty deeds and prophetic words. But even to His chosen messengers, God revealed himself in an indirect manner -- in the form of fire, a voice, an angel, not in a direct way.

As much as Isaiah, Hosea, and Ezekiel desired to see God's face, none of them would have dared to imagine that God would humble himself so profoundly so as to become like one of His creatures, enfleshed like all of us, and then submit to a horrific death. The conviction (as expressed in the "stadium sign verse," John 3:16) that, "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son," is profoundly radical.

God loves the world; He loves you. Not only did Jesus Christ die for us, but He died so that a relationship to God might be available to each and every person in the history of the world.

God died so that you might know Him alive. God died so that you might truly live forever and taste even in this life, the abundant goodness of the Resurrection!

Reflection question: If God loves us infinitely in Christ, how do we respond to such goodness?

1 Cf. 2 Tim 2:10-12; Rm 6:8