CNS PHOTO | PAUL HARING
Archbishop Gerald Lacroix says the Gospel does not need to be adapted to modern times, people need to adapt to the Gospel
Quebec Archbishop Gerald Lacroix believes it is a mistake to "mellow down the Gospel" to draw people.
Softening the message has nothing to do with the new evangelization, says the primate of Canada, though some people have tried to make the Gospel "sweeter" and "easier," telling people "it's not as difficult as you think" or "you don't have to convert completely."
"That's not what will attract people," Lacroix said in an interview from Quebec City. "Our mission must be to preach the truth of the Gospel, and the full message of the Gospel."
"The rest does not belong to us," he said. "Some will convert and will follow Christ; others will reject us and persecute us for being different."
At the recent plenary of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, Lacroix said he exhorted his brother bishops to make the new evangelization "absolutely first in our pastoral activities."
While guiding a plenary discussion on preparations for next year's Synod on the New Evangelization in Rome, Lacroix reminded the bishops that 10 years after the close of the Second Vatican Council, Pope Paul VI described a state of "emergency" concerning evangelization in his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi (On Evangelization in the Modern World).
Over the past three decades, both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict have continued making the case for the urgent need of a new evangelization.
"I told my brother bishops, don't you think we've been in the emergency room long enough?" Lacroix said. "Why are we so slow in reacting?
Instead, "We need really to get up to par to find ways to reach out and evangelize others," he said. "We've been talking about it so long."
"Sometimes we say, the Church is so slow, it's 2,000 years old, and it's quite a big machine to turn over.
"Hello! The Church has been fast on this," he said. "We're the ones who have been slow in accepting this challenge."
The new evangelization refers to the mission of re-evangelizing people in societies like those in North America or Europe where Christianity has deep roots, but many people have only a superficial faith or have fallen away, he said. Evangelism refers to reaching out to peoples who have never heard the Gospel.
When he became archbishop of Quebec last February, journalists asked him, "You're a young man, a young bishop; how are you going to adapt the Gospel so it will be receivable by today's modern men and women?"
"I don't think it's the Gospel we need to adapt," he said. "It's our lives that we need adapt to be faithful to the Gospel."
"We need to convert," he stressed. "I know that word doesn't go by very easily. It's a difficult word, but we need to be in harmony with the Gospel, not water it down to our level."
Don't expect me to be "tearing out pages" of the Word of God, saying "this is expired," or "this is no longer up-to-date," or "this is too difficult for modern men and women," he said.
"We're not telling people, 'Listen we have a new message. It's not going to be as demanding as we were before, we've found a smooth version of the Gospel; it won't be so difficult to live, it's going to be easy, come right in.' No that's not what it's all about."
Lacroix said the new evangelization requires new methods, a new audacity and dynamism, but it's the same Gospel that invites people "to encounter the saving Lord."
There is a popular, "feel-good" Jesus that we hear about on some television shows, from pastors who have mega-churches in the United States and preach a Christ who will bless you, make you rich and successful, he said. "There is not much room for the cross."
The new evangelization brings the Paschal Mystery, the death and resurrection of Christ. "If you take apart the Paschal Mystery, you are not preaching Christ."
The Gospel message starts with the love of God, he said. "God is love, and he loves you personally. He wants you to be happy, filled with life, truth and love."
"The second step is recognizing that you're not quite up to par; there are some things in your life and some things my life things that are not filled with life, love and truth," he said. "That's it. I'm sorry, if you're not willing to go there and look at that part of your life, well you don't need a saviour."
Lacroix acknowledged that a forthright presentation of the Good News will bring opposition. "I have enough lucidity to see that some people absolutely reject and will not accept the values of Christianity. That's for them to deal with," he said. "I will not adapt my speaking, my values, so they will be acceptable."
While Quebec needs the new evangelization, Lacroix said the province also needs plain old evangelization because many, especially the young, have never been exposed to the Christian faith.
"Easter is more about bunnies, and chocolate, and eggs, than it is about Jesus dying and resurrecting," he said, recalling some television interviews last spring that revealed many Quebeckers see no religious significance in Easter.
Lacroix said Quebec has a 400-year history of preaching the Good News. "We're at a point now where we need something very special. We need the Holy Spirit to step in, and he's going to do it."