Catholic Prayers for the New Evangelization

"Catholic Prayers for the New Evangelization"

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Sunday, July 05, 2009

Be different...

30 June 2009

Be different…and show others there is a better way!

Adapted and expanded from this morning’s homily.

Yesterday, with the celebration of the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, the universal Church brought to a close the Jubilee Year of Saint Paul. Over the past year, we have had the opportunity to reflect on the life, ministry and writings of Saul of Tarsus, who was named Paul after his remarkable conversion to Christ, through which he was transformed from a vehement persecutor of Christians to a passionate Apostle for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We have focused on Paul’s writings in the readings at Mass, read about him and prayed through him to the Lord. Yet this is only the beginning. Now is the time to commit to putting Paul’s vision into action in our lives: let nothing separate you from the love of Christ!
The Church’s celebration of the Apostles Peter and Paul is commemorated by the Holy Father’s bestowing of the pallium – a special garment worn at pontifical ceremonies – on the new archbishops of the world. Thus we are reminded of the apostolic nature of the Church: she was founded on the faith and ministry of the Apostles and continues to proclaim the truth and love of Christ under the leadership of her bishops, the successors to the Apostles.
The Church celebrates two holy Apostles in one great feast: Peter, on whose confession of faith Christ founded the Church and to whom He entrusted the tasks of strengthening the brethren in unity and feeding the universal flock; and Paul, through whom the faith spread throughout the known world. These great men both gave their lives for the faith. Peter was martyred by crucifixion and Paul, as a Roman citizen entitled to a swift execution, was beheaded.
Today, on the day following the celebration of Peter and Paul – apostles, martyrs, priests and bishops – the Church honors all the martyrs of the Church of Rome: countless priests and laity, men and women from all walks of life and backgrounds who sacrificed their lives for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They remind us that all people are called to be willing to die for Christ!
The CARA Report for the Spring of 2009 was recently released by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University – the research institute from which we receive statistics about seminaries, priests, mass attendance, etc. The report featured the work of associates of the Catholic Education Institute, who, after studies and research regarding divorce rates, religious participation, issues regarding human life, marriage and family life, observe that Catholics “increasingly believe and act just like everyone else.”
I cannot imagine a more pathetic commentary on the life of the Church. To say that Catholics have become like everyone else is to say that they have abandoned their identity – or at least a significant portion of it. In many ways this is sadly true. In the last 40 years or so, Catholics – officially or covertly – have downplayed aspects of the Church that distinguish her from the rest of cultural or religious experiences. Attempts have been made to make the Church more accessible or more appealing to ecumenical sensibilities. Catholics have pushed aside devotion to Mary and the Saints, Eucharistic Adoration, and other rich devotions in order to emphasize the things that make us more like other Christians. (Bear in mind, of course, that, in itself, emphasizing the Eucharistic Liturgy, which is the ultimate source of unity, is most laudable. Problems arise because of imbalances and improper de-emphases.) The Church’s teachings on priesthood, marriage, sexuality, human life, the sacraments, and the papacy have been watered down or re-created in the image of those pushing a progressive agenda.
Wherever the Church has tried to adapt, in order to appeal to other (even contrary) ideas, she has lost her unique flavor. A climate of dissent and duplicity has developed in recent years. It is now commonplace to criticize the unchanging teaching of Christ and ridicule the Holy Father. One can call oneself – or one’s institution – “catholic,” and yet believe, profess and practice anything at all. We have lost a sense of unity around the core tenets of the faith and a passion for the truth. In so doing, our salt has lost its flavor and we have hidden the light of faith under a bushel basket.
The martyrs of the early Church were not like everyone else. In fact, they were not like anyone else. They believed in Jesus Christ with passion and professed their faith both by their manner of living and by sacrificing their lives. They remind us that, if the faith of Jesus is not worth dying for, then it is not worth living for. They did not go along with the culture, blend in, succumb to societal pressures, or gloss over the unique splendor of the faith in order to be appealing to others. They stood out and stood firm in Christ. They did not die in order to be like everyone else. They died to be more completely united to Christ and faithful to His Church.
It is precisely the unique aspects of the Church that make her worth living for – and dying for. Only the unique flavor of the Church – sacramental, hierarchical, apostolic, pro-life, defending marriage – reveals the fullness of what Christ intended and makes her attractive to those who have not known Christ. People don’t convert to Catholicism in order to become Protestants! The unique life of the Church makes being a member of Christ's Mystical Body a remarkable and exciting experience. It’s awesome to be Catholic! The way of Christ experienced in His Church is beyond compare more rational, more fulfilling and more complete than any other path toward which we might be tempted to wander. Professing the truth of Catholicism with passion and love is a fulfilling and rewarding experience, and the salvation of souls depends on fervent witness.
Christ desires us to become saints – holy people in love with Christ – and martyrs – witnesses to the unique and salvific Gospel of Jesus Christ. And so, be remarkable in your witness; be passionate in your love for Jesus; be different than everyone else in living out your faith. Be different – and show others there is a better way!