Monday, December 17, 2012

The OLD Evangelization

     This is what I see many Catholics doing so far with Blessed John Paul the Great's teachings on the New Evangelization: Teachings about New Evangelism + a new evangelization committee=more on the New Evangelization+ more new committees=nothing getting done. It seems to me that there have been more committees formed for evangelization and people writing about the New Evangelization than there have been people actually getting in touch with Jesus Christ. Heck, on Google alone there over 2,540,000 hits on writings on the subject. Could you imagine if these were actual people that had a living experience of Jesus Christ? To put all that effort used in our committees and writings into the life of a real person? If I could speak on behalf of our blessed father I think he would wish us to stop writing and forming committees and start evangelizing. Maybe its time we go back to the Old Evangelization and to restore the notion of a whole church as the means of evangelization instead of the committee.
    Many years ago when Blessed John Paul the Great introduced the Church to the concept of a New Evangelization. He wanted to challenge the Church to continually find new ways to help others discover Jesus Christ. In addition, in his writings about the New Evangelization we find the Holy Father to some degree warning Catholics about a temptation to neglect the missionary aspect of the Church. To some degree he exposes a weakness that we commonly see in our churches. I know in my experience we find it all too easy to talk about traditions amongst oursleves then to really reach out to others with the love of Christ. For example, the church and its traditions become the object of spiritual identity rather than a missoionary ferver to share a living, loving, and real encounter with Jesus Christ with others.Consequently, the only church growth we see comes from births, migration, or marriages and nothing by the way of leading others into a living encounter with Jesus Christ.
     In this regard, sometimes I meet people that share stories of why they joined my Byzantine Catholic church. Among these stories it's rare that I hear anything about encountering Jesus Christ.They usually explain the problems of the church that they belonged to before. The conversation then turns to how well our liturgy is preformed or some particular aspects of the Byzantine tradition . There is nothing to indicate that have been properly introduced to my tradition, which is a tradition that does not speak of itself but about a real experience of the love of God. Recently, when I had this conversation with a new friend of mine I had to remind him that my church is about loving and experiencing Jesus Christ. If someone becomes Byzantine for any other reason you still have yet to experience what we are all about.
     Sometimes we form our committees or write our papers to show others that we have a desire to evangelize. However, the reality might be that we have never evangelized a day in our life nor do we have a real desire to. If we find ourselves faced with this we should know that we are not alone. Not even the apostles who received the first Eucharist from the hands of Lord at the last supper were properly equipped with a desire to share their faith. Like many Catholics who have received the sacraments we find the same experience our Blessed Father says about the apostles, "Despite their love for him and their generous response to his call, they proved to be incapable of understanding his words and reluctant to follow him along the path of suffering and humiliation". Just Like the apostles some of us still need something more from God to produce a real desire to evangelize.
     It was only when the apostles encountered the Holy Spirit for the first time at Pentecost  that we see a real burning desire to evangelize. As our Blessed Father also says "The Spirit transformed them into courageous witnesses to Christ and enlightened heralds of his word. ". This same power is offered to us in the sacraments but it is not automatic.We may have been Catholic our whole life, gotten degrees in theology and somehow never tapped into the power that produces the desire to evangelize. For what ever reason the power is dormant and the evidence is that there is no real desire to evangelize. In this I would challenge you to examine if you have any real desire to evangelize. To understand that it's not a natural desire and it must come as a gift. To be willing to ask God to give you this desire and to ask for the full power of the Holy Spirit.
     If we become open to the request that I put before us I guarantee you that things will change. Blessed John Paul the Great said that those who want to evangelize, "feel Christ's burning love for souls, and love the Church as Christ did". If we do not have this all we need to do is seek God in humility and He will give it to us. As St. Symeon the New theologian said concerning this power, "come, bow and fall down together with me and do not rise until you have received the gift of God, as I, who am unworthy, have received this gift of grace". Its important to note that our father Symeon said this to people that lived in a monastery and who perhaps were members of the Church all their lives. If they missed this power so could we. However, as he demonstrated God wants to give it to us. We just need to be willing to ask.



Quotes are from Blessed John Paul the Great's (REDEMPTORIS MISSIO)

3 comments:

  1. There may be many who have no idea what is meant by evangelization. It may be somewhat akin to being told as a teen-ager to "grow up" without explanation!

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  2. I agree- most people who join us because of problems with their old church (usually Roman-rite or Orthodox) will leave us too because somehow we don't satisfy them. Perhaps we failed to evangelize

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  3. There definitely needs to be some effort made to explain to those people who attend our churches what the reality of Eastern Christianity is. We have many Roman Catholics attending our parish, for a variety of reasons, one of which is that they have become disgruntled with the RC parish up the road. Another is that they think we have a 'pretty liturgy.' But these people do not understand the theology or spirituality of Eastern Christianity or the Byzantine liturgy. Very few, if any, change rites and fully identify as Eastern Christians.

    I understand that there may be many reasons why people choose to attend our church, and being unhappy with the RC church may be the catalyst they need to investigate the Eastern option. But then they must go deeper. It is our responsibility as Eastern Christians to assist others to understand our tradition and how it can help us become closer to God. And that responsibility falls on the shoulders of both the ordained ministers, and the laity.

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