There are three priorities identified in Archbishop Richard Smith's pastoral letter entitled Pastoral Priorities of The Archdiocese of Edmonton. They are as follows: evangelization, faith formation and vocations promotion.
My last column addressed faith formation. It is vitally important that Christian faith be well formed, based upon a relationship with Christ and be supported by the solid foundation of Church teachings. In this column, I want to reflect on evangelization and how lay people like you and me can participate in this task.
Archbishop Smith states in his pastoral letter, "The Church exists to evangelize. Our raison d'être as a communion of disciples is to announce Jesus Christ to the world." Christians have done this since Pentecost and 21st century believers must take the Gospel to the modern world."
When we have a personal friendship with Christ, our very being becomes centred upon that relationship – or it should. Christ becomes our joy. We want to share with others the Good News of Christ's steadfast love and redemptive sacrifice.
In the words of Pope Benedict that inspired the Nothing More Beautiful series, he said, "There is nothing more beautiful than to know Jesus Christ; there is nothing more beautiful than to tell others of our friendship with him." Indeed! But how should we do that?
We must show others that we are Christians, not only in how we live, but also in the concern we show for the welfare of people.
We must tell others of our friendship with Christ. It happens in the course of conversations we have with people in our spheres of influence: Our interactions with people in our neighbourhoods or at our workplaces – taking or making appropriate opportunities to tell people about the hope that resides with us through Jesus Christ. As Archbishop Smith said, as Christians it is our raison d'être.
The depth of our friendship with Christ will directly determine the zeal by which we witness to our communities about the Good News of reconciliation with God through the life, death and resurrection of his Son Jesus Christ. It is a beautiful reality to know that we can be completely forgiven and accepted by the Creator of everything, regardless of what we have done.
The beauty of Christian faith and the beauty of the Catholic Church stand in stark contrast to a cruel and coarse world in which much of humanity finds itself. The beauty of Catholicism is rooted in divine and perfect love that is found through friendship with Christ.
Jesus said, "The greatest love is shown when a person lays down his life for his friends" (John 15.33). Christ's incomprehensible love was shown not only by words but also in his sacrificial death. His divine love was expressed in dying on the cross for the sins of the world.
All humanity is loved by God – the very essence of divine love. God wants to draw all humanity to himself. Faith in Christ is the way that is done.
The Church teaches "The paschal mystery of Christ's cross and resurrection stands at the centre of the Good News that the apostles, and the Church followed them, are to proclaim to the world. God's saving plan was accomplished "once for all" by the redemptive death of his Son Jesus Christ" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 571). That is a beautiful mystery of faith and the cross.
Language may change, methods of communication may evolve, but the message remains the same and it is as vitally important today as ever. We must be ready to take every opportunity to proclaim the mystery of the cross.
Our parishes must be places of welcome and nurture for individuals and families. Each of us has a role to play to push the doors of our churches wide open and bid welcome to all.
When people enter our parishes, make the sense of welcome and inclusive Christian community evident to them. Remember that many newcomers will enter your midst with little or no understanding of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Introduce them to the Catholic message of Christ's love that sheds a unique light on the beauty of marriage, family life and human dignity. Help them to understand Catholic modes of Christian worship. Encourage new people to explore the beauty of Catholicism and begin to plumb the depths of its vast spiritual richness.
As a convert to Catholicism, I am continually wooed and blessed by the beauty of Catholicism.