It is fitting that the conclusion of our five-year archdiocesan Nothing More Beautiful program falls close to Pentecost. For the New Evangelization to flow from Nothing More Beautiful, it must be the work of the Holy Spirit.
For too long, our Catholic faith has been seen as a faith of rules and regulations when in fact it is a work of the Spirit who leads us into a personal encounter with Jesus, the Word Made Flesh. Indeed, that is the primary work of the Spirit – to help us know, not simply about Jesus, but as a person.
Living out this encounter does not marginalize morality. Rather, it assumes moral living as a given – something every decent human person will live by. The encounter with Jesus leads one to strive for holiness, to go far beyond the basic tenets of moral living, and to seek to live as Jesus lives so that one may always be in communion with him.
God calls each person to a unique mission in the building up of his kingdom. He also calls us as a Church to embody that mission and to spread it so that it transforms all of humanity. Far from being a licence for individualism, the personal missions are part of the mission of the whole. It is only within the structured brotherhood and sisterhood of the Church that the personal missions cohere and God's plan moves toward fullness.
Sometimes, that may mean the cross. For what one part of the Body of Christ thinks its mission to be may not be in unity with the mission of the whole. One may be called to act in a way different from what one's personal desires dictate.
The wisdom of Nothing More Beautiful is that it aimed at a parish-based, diocesan-centred mission of the New Evangelization. It does not depend on movements, new or old, as its driving force. Rather, it is a movement of the whole Church into which the smaller movements fit their charisms.
This, however, represents two major challenges for parishes. First, in the New Evangelization, Catholics must not only live their faith out of a personal encounter with Jesus, they must – it would seem obvious – know that faith.
Second, the parish must have an outward focus. It must be in solidarity with its local community and indeed with the whole world. It must reach out in charity to meet the needs of those in distress. It must also reach out with God's Word to feed the spiritual hunger so evident in contemporary society.
These are well-known challenges, but the need to meet them grows stronger each year. Rising to the challenge should follow directly from participation in the Eucharist – the place where the community encounters Jesus most fully and is sent forth. In that going-forth, every day is a new Pentecost, a day in which we can expect the Holy Spirit to be the first agent in the renewal of creation.