WCR PHOTO | CHRIS MILLER
Fr. Tom Rosica says the New Evangelization is not a glitzy new program. Rather, it's a matter of inviting Catholics to return to the Church.
The New Evangelization has become Pope Benedict's focus as well as a central concern of the Edmonton Archdiocese, "which makes us wonder what was wrong with the other evangelization," said Basilian Father Thomas Rosica.
The problem is that even today, when information is communicated rapidly through social media, television and other technological means, most people still don't know God, they don't know Christ and they don't know the significance of the Gospel message.
Rosica, 53, told about 260 people at the annual Scripturefest, held Sept. 29 at Archbishop MacDonald High School, that the New Evangelization is all about finding fresh ways of telling the old, ancient, beautiful Gospel story in a new and appealing way that will reach people.
Not only a Scripture scholar, Rosica has also served as CEO of World Youth Day in Toronto and founded Salt and Light Television.
For Scripturefest, his four talks were on the Gospel of Luke. But the first talk focused on the biblical foundations for the New Evangelization.
Pope John Paul II coined the term "New Evangelization" to refer to the need to revive the Gospel in traditionally Christian parts of the world.
Luke's Gospel is 'one big emergency room'
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
EDMONTON – St. Luke's Gospel is about the gentleness of Jesus, says Father Tom Rosica.
"The Gospel of Luke is not about the closed fist and the gnarling of teeth. It is about sweetness and goodness and mercy. God knows how much the world needs that message today," Rosica told the Edmonton Archdiocese's annual Scripturefest Sept. 29.
Certain popular stories, such as the Prodigal Son and the Good Samaritan, are found only in the Gospel of Luke, he said. Luke's account of Jesus' life places special emphasis on prayer, the activity of the Holy Spirit, and joyfulness.
Luke turns his attention to the humanity of Jesus, spotlighting his humanity, his compassion for the weak, the suffering and the outcast. Women are portrayed as important among his followers, the despised Samaritans are commended and Gentiles are promised the opportunity to accept the Gospel.
"Luke's Gospel focuses on people in need, the poor, the disenfranchised, widows, orphans, people on the fringe, and especially the sick. It's like one big emergency room in the Church," said Rosica.
Luke also portrays Jesus as an important historical figure. He gives a straightforward account of Jesus' life. Yet today, people are sidetracked by novels that distort history, such as The Da Vinci Code, in which Jesus is said to have married Mary Magdalene and moved to France. Some people have accepted such distortions as facts.
"It is at this point when the Church must step in and speak carefully to bring order to the confusion," said Rosica.
Luke was clear in his writing about Jesus' life, death and resurrection. Luke's Gospel lays emphasis on the risen Christ and his requirement for the salvation of humanity, said Rosica. Today, more than ever, the world needs authentic proclamation of that message.
Pope Benedict carries on with the same theme, proclaiming that the Church has a duty everywhere and at all times to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Rosica suggested redirecting evangelization efforts to "the great public meeting place, in the magazines, in politics, in the economy.
"We have to give special attention to those who suffer, to the poor, and to those who have strayed from the Church. We can no longer wait for those who are not practising their faith to return to the Church on their own. We have go out and seek them."
Connecting people with the Gospel message must be done in schools, shopping malls, supermarkets and among friends. Evangelization must be expressed at weddings and funerals.
A new segment on Salt and Light will be Church Alive, a program focused on non-traditional places where the Church is active. He cited St. Benedict Chapel, located in Edmonton's City Centre East Mall, as one example. The 1,200-square-foot chapel offers Masses and the opportunity for Confession for mall employees, shoppers and passersby.
However, Rosica cautioned that New Evangelization is not about introducing fancy, new methods. The evangelization programs that work best are designed on a peer-to-peer basis.
"It's not about a technique, it's not about being slick and it's not about new programs. It's about looking at everything we do, and asking the questions, 'Do we speak about Jesus? Do we speak about the world? Do we invite people to come to Jesus Christ?'"
The Gospel is a living witness of a historical event that changed history. The New Evangelization makes known the historical person of Jesus and his teachings as they have been faithfully transmitted in the New Testament.
Unlike other facets of society where people are in hope of something good to happen, a principle of Christianity is "it's not that we were hoping. It's that we are hope. In spite of all the messes, we are still here. We have a message that the world needs," said Rosica.
At Salt and Light, his mandate for programming is that it have an element of joy and that Jesus' name is mentioned.
"The real evaluation of the Second Vatican Council and the effectiveness of evangelization is, did our presence, did our liturgy, did our music, did our pastoral council, did all of those wonderful things that make up our Church, bring us closer to Jesus Christ?" he said.