Last week I wrote with pleasure about our Holy Father’s decision to declare a special Year of Faith for the whole church beginning in October of 2012. In my opinion he is right on when he expresses the hope that it will give "renewed energy to the mission of the whole Church to lead men and women out of the desert they often are in and toward the place of life: friendship with Christ who gives us fullness of life."
The reference Pope Benedict used to renewed energy for mission resonates strongly with Pope John Paul II’s continued call for a new evangelization — fresh energy and renewed effort on the part of all Catholic Christians, lest the Good News lose its savor or be considered as simply one among many values important to us. Both John Paul II and Benedict call us to focus on Christ Jesus who is the fullness of God’s revelation to us.
In ways I never anticipated when I wrote last week’s column, I had the challenge and opportunity to articulate something of what Jesus means in my own life.
It happened this way: Our Department of Evangelization and Catechesis is preparing a new evangelization Website intended for those who are unchurched or unaffiliated. It is meant to be a place where "inquirers" can go for some initial contact before talking to someone in a parish, if they feel shy about that.
As a part of their preparation for that site they asked me, among others, to do some video work. On Oct. 26 a team from that department came to my office, equipment in hand. They sat me down and asked me the following questions:
* Why is Jesus so important to you?
* Why should Jesus be important to me?
* What will Jesus do for me?
* I’ve heard you say that Jesus can be found in the Gospels. What do you mean by that?
* Where do you meet Jesus in the community — our faith community and the community at large?
* I know some people who are Catholics. They don’t always act the way I expect Christians to act. Doesn’t this make them hypocrites?
* How do you think Jesus is present in the teachings and traditions of the Catholic Church?
I was grateful for the experience of doing this with my coworkers for several reasons. It reminded me of how deeply personal the questions really are. It made me realize that I would have answered them a bit differently 20 years ago and might change my response 10 years from now.
My gratitude arises most of all from the opportunity to approach anew some questions that are deeply important to me. I have been a Catholic Christian for 74 years, a priest for 49 years and a bishop for 32 years. Questions like the ones above still nourish, still challenge and serve to deepen my love for the Lord and for neighbor.
You may want to spend some time with the questions yourself, or you may prefer to work on them with your spouse or your child, your parent or a friend.
By the way, the website is not even named yet. But keep an eye on future editions of the Catholic Courier. It won’t be long.
Peace to all.