As noted earlier, there are no trivial issues when it comes to attacks on the Church. “Identity” is not a trivial issue. It is a core issue. I was very grateful to see this message from Archbishop Fisichella and his remarks about our identity and the importance of knowing the real Jesus (how many of us really know Him?), in regard to the New Evangelization, at Vatican Radio:
“We cannot conduct a new evangelisation without new evangelizers”, said Archbishop Rino Fisichella Thursday as he opened a three day conference on New Evangelisation in down town Sydney, Australia.
You can read his full address at Vatican Radio. Here are some highlights that stand out to me.
Quoting Pope Paul IV:
‘There is no true evangelization if the name, the teaching, the life, the promises, the Kingdom, the mystery of Jesus of Nazareth, Son of God, is not proclaimed’.
As long as the heart of Christianity is Jesus Christ, encountering him will demand an impact which will allow people to see in his disciples a life which is coherent with what they announce.
In other words, we have to “be” Christ in the world, and our message about Him has to be one that is authentic, one that makes sense.
Here’s that “identity” word again, specifically in regard to our identity in Christ, wherein we cannot bring people to Christ by excluding Him in some way from our message. He says:
The area upon which we need to stimulate people’s reflection, in fact, is the meaning of life and of death, of life beyond death; from those questions which touch human existence as such and which determine our personal identity, Jesus Christ cannot be excluded.
Look. Here it is again. “Identity.” It begins with formation. He says:
To enable Christians to recover their identity and their sense of belonging to the Church can only be brought about to the extent that they recognise the need to insert themselves into the way of the Church and into her two thousand years of pastoral activity. A first element concerns formation. This involves everyone, with no exceptions. Formation makes it possible to recover the patrimony of faith and culture which we possess and which we are called to transmit to the generations which will come after us.
Do you know how important this is? Well, we’re actually in a crisis now as too many people want to water down teaching, push authentic faith to the margins of society, and console people in their ignorance about who Jesus is and who they are as human beings. He says:
As may be noted, the crisis is first of all a cultural and an anthropological crisis. The human being is in crisis. It is not in marginalising Christianity that we can attain a better society. That would be an impossibility. Such a reading of events is not only short-sighted, but it is mistaken in its very premises.
We may think people don’t want to know the real Jesus, or that they cannot accept the truth about themselves in Him, but the truth, the real truth about Jesus, is a message that should not be unappealing to people. He says:
To be sure, our history is made up of light and of darkness, but the message we bear is one of genuine liberation for human beings and one of corresponding progress for peoples.
Because of that, we should not and cannot be neutral on it. We cannot deny who we are and simultaneously bring Christ to people. He says:
Therefore, it is necessary that we emerge from a certain form of neutrality into which many countries have enclosed themselves, even to avoid having to take a position in favour of their own history.
It is not a minor thing. Unless we address this, we will have “no future.” Those who say we must “change with the times” are leading us to “irreversible decline.” In other words, destruction, not of the Church, but of the Church in the West. (The Church is growing in Africa.) He says:
If the West is ashamed of what it has been, of the roots which sustain it and of the Christian identity which still forms it, then it will not have a future. The conclusion can only be that of an irreversible decline.
Who will be responsible? We Catholics will.
We Catholics will not be found lacking in regard to the responsibility we must assume and we will not accept being marginalised. Our work of the new evangelization implies this also. We are convinced that our presence is essential. No-one else could take our place.
The time is now. Our embrace of the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ is nigh.
It is very good and holy to consider the passion of our Lord, and to meditate on it, for by this sacred path we reach union with God. In this most holy school we learn true wisdom, for it was there that all the saints learned it. — St. Paul of the Cross