The Second Reading for the March 10 Mass is 2 Corinthians 5.17-21. St. Paul says that whoever is in Christ is a new creation and that everything old has passed away. Paul says the way of salvation comes from God to reconcile a sinful humanity to himself.
The way of salvation is found in Jesus Christ and the awful price he paid through his passion and death on the cross for our sakes.
Elsewhere, Paul writes that God's plan is that we have salvation in Christ. We are told Christ is "the one who made us acceptable to God; he made us pure and holy and gave himself to purchase our salvation" (1 Corinthians 1.30). Any merits we have before a holy God come from Christ.
How then can we repay such a debt? It is impossible. We simply accept the divine plan for reconciliation to God and live for Christ: He is everything.
Try to reflect Christ to the people at your workplace and your community. I will try to reflect Christ from my wheelchair and through my chronic illness. With all our frailties and failings, Christians are still to be God's emissaries to a lost and hurting world.
This is what the Second Reading says - we are God's ambassadors for Christ to a world that does not know him. He commissions us to call those around us to reconciliation with God. Christ is the key.
Any righteousness we have before a righteous God is through Christ. He who knew no sin takes on our sin so we might become the righteousness of God. God does not want anyone to be lost from the kingdom of heaven but without faith in Christ, that is what will happen.
Pope John Paul II spoke of a New Evangelization in which the laity plays an important and active role. He said, "The moment has come to commit all the churches' energies to a New Evangelization." The pope said, "No believer in Christ, no institution of the Church can avoid this supreme duty: to proclaim Christ to all peoples." The central Christian message is this: salvation only comes through Jesus Christ.
We who claim our first allegiance is to Christ must not limit our evangelization to unbelievers. We must also reach out to non-practising Christians who have lost their faith, and to our increasingly secularized culture.
The New Evangelization does not have a new message but as Blessed John Paul stated, it can be "new in its ardour, methods and expressions" to communicate to people of our time. It meant so much to him that we bear witness for Jesus Christ.
He said, "Evangelization will always contain as the foundation, centre and, at the same time, the summit of its dynamism a clear proclamation that, in Jesus Christ . . . salvation is offered to all men, as a gift of God's grace and mercy."
The pontiff stressed that we must have a "personal and profound meeting with the Saviour."
Christianity is missionary in its calling but personal in its nature. Christ is not merely a figurehead: He is alive and desires a personal relationship with everyone.
In the Great Commission, Christ told his disciples to "make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold I am with you always, until the end of the age."
At this dissolute and confused time in Western history, Christians in general, and Catholics in particular, need to evangelize or re-evangelize the world, especially North America.
We must begin by cleaning our lives of anything unworthy of Christ. We must confess and repent our sins, and then, once again, commit our lives anew to a revitalized faith in Jesus Christ.
Once this is completed, the Church and its members will be ready for the new missionary age in a spirit of holiness that Pope John Paul envisioned. The new mission field includes where you live and work. Proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ in your community, to neighbours at your children's soccer games, at coffee shops or your office, or just walking in a park. Speak to people about your personal encounter with Jesus Christ.
I, too, will speak to people from my wheelchair about the hope I have in Christ and invite them to join my Church family.