Now is our call to a new evangelization Print
Bishop Morlino's Column
Thursday, Sep. 08, 2011 -- 12:00 AM
Under the Gospel Book by Bishop Robert C. Morlino
This column is the bishop’s communication with the faithful of the Diocese of Madison. Any wider circulation reaches beyond the intention of the bishop.

Dear Friends,

With the coming of Labor Day and the start of so many school years, we’ve come upon the unofficial end of summer. I pray that this summer was somewhat restful and restorative for you and yours, and I thank God that mine was indeed.

Each year, Pope Benedict spends some time towards the end of August with a small group of scholars, most of whom were students of his when he was a university professor. This group, appropriately named the Pope’s “Schülerkreis,” or “student circle,” spends some time helping this Holy Father do that which he finds most restful and restorative: that is, reading, debating, studying, and praying about a certain topic for a week or so. This may not be your idea of a “fun” vacation, but it gives us a beautiful insight into the man who is our Holy Father, and we thank God for him.

The theme of this year’s gathering was one that seems to be at the very heart of Pope Benedict’s thinking these days — the “New Evangelization.” Blessed John Paul the Great first called for a new evangelization and it’s become very clear that Pope Benedict is making the call his own. In fact, in recent months he’s even created a new Vatican office for the new evangelization.

At the heart of this call for a new evangelization is the reality that while there are some mission lands left where the Gospel message has not really been heard, and other lands where the faith has just begun to take root, there remains a whole slew of the world’s population in lands where the Gospel has been spread and even thrived, but where, now, the sense of God and of Christ present to them has been lost and forgotten. This is the population Pope Benedict wants to focus upon in a new way — those who need to hear the Good News again and to see the face of Christ. And Europe and parts of the Americas are right at the center of his sights.

Calling us to examination of conscience

At the end of this time of the reflection, our Holy Father often makes directly public a few of his conclusions, and that’s precisely what he did just in the last week. The Holy Father used the Psalm of the day to remind us that our souls yearn for the living God, like the arid desert land, yearning for water. This, the Holy Father said, is precisely the experience of much of the world today, and it is precisely why we need a new evangelization to bring the Living Water back into world.

However, beyond simply speaking in generalities, the Holy Father spoke, in a sense, to each of us, calling us to a sort of examination of conscience and repentance. Here he said something which struck me and which I want to reflect upon with you. He said:

“We who have known God since we were young, must ask forgiveness, we bring people so little of the light of His face, because from us comes so little certainty that He exists, that He is there, and that He is the Great One that everyone is waiting for.”

Notice, first, that the Pope is not wagging or even pointing his finger; he is calling us to an examination and he has included himself. I certainly look to Pope Benedict as an example of how I might be more selfless in living a life of service and self-sacrifice. I know I am far from perfect in living such a life (and if I forget that, I’m very quickly reminded). And so, if Pope Benedict is undertaking his own examination of conscience with regard to how he is witnessing to the reality of God, I don’t think any of us should feel slighted that we should be implored to do the same.

“We who have known God since we were young, must ask forgiveness,” he says! But what does this say about what we’ve already done and what we’re doing now? How often have we reasoned or boasted, “I do so much,” “I’ve been serving since I was an altar boy,” “I went to Catholic Schools for x number of years,” etc. These are all great things, and so, why should we ask for forgiveness? Because no matter how we serve, there is honestly more that we can do to bring people the light of His face, to tell them confidently that He exists, that He is there, and that He is the Great One that everyone is waiting for. You and I know that each day we miss opportunities to make this witness.

Calling us to take action

Look around us; can there be any question that the world, that our family, that our parish and our Church is in need of something — of someONE? Certainly we cannot deny it. No, the world is — in so many ways, globally, locally, in our Church, and in our families — like a parched dry land, crying out for water. And we have it! So many of us have had it since our parents passed it on to us!

And so, in this moment (and each day) the Holy Father is calling each of us not only to a moment of asking forgiveness, but of action. A moment of reflection is not a moment to beat ourselves up and to “get down.” No, reflection on our failings should always call us, in a positive, hopeful way, to return to Christ.

That return to Christ is the very first step that we can take in undertaking the new evangelization. If we are, “bringing people so little of the light of His face,” it is because we are not truly convinced of His presence, or because we are not encountering Christ in that life-changing way each day. For how can we give to others what we do not have? How many times have we set-out with conviction to undertake some new means of service or to bring Christ to someone else, only to lose our energy and zeal?

That is why first we must return to Christ ourselves and be strengthened in Him. What we hope to bring to the world is not something from us, but from Him. And so, we meet Him first, through the Sacraments and through our community prayer at the Mass, and then through our own personal time with Him each day.

Spend time with Christ

One very concrete way that I would encourage that we do this is through spending time with Jesus, truly present to us in the Blessed Sacrament. There comes from us, the Holy Father said, “so little certainty that He exists, that He is there, and that He is the Great One that everyone is waiting for.” For us as Catholics, Christ is never more present in this life, than he is in the Eucharist. And so why should we not sit with Him in Eucharistic Adoration, and let him build in us that certainty of His existence.

In the past month I celebrated with parishioners in Fennimore, as they marked 15 years of non-stop adoration of Jesus, truly present in the Blessed Sacrament. I know too that more and more parishes have returned to the practice of Adoration, to reclaim for themselves that recognition of Christ’s presence, the very presence they hope to take into the world. I encourage all of us to take better advantage of the opportunities present to us, either in our own parishes or in nearby parishes to encounter Jesus face to face in the Eucharist.

As we are strengthened in our certainty of God’s presence in our lives, that confidence can not but be better demonstrated in all that we say and do, in each moment, for our coworkers, our neighbors, our parishes, and our families, in putting aside distractions and not hiding our confidence in Christ with grumbling and negativity.

So many of the people we encounter find themselves in a “desert,” longing for something to quench their thirst. You and I have been given the Living Water that is Christ! Let us not shy away from sharing it. Let us not be afraid to seek reconciliation in our families; let us not be hesitant to bring living water into our parishes; let us not hesitate to reach out to our neighbor in need with the water he or she needs; and let us witness to all we encounter that we know the Great One they are waiting for.

What we offer may be rejected, just as some rejected Christ Himself, but if we strive to offer what we have, in love, we are doing all that we are asked.

Thank you all for reading this. Thank you for taking the time to reflect on these words yourselves and for encouraging others to reflect and to act. May the Lord bless each and every one of you. Praised be Jesus Christ!