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BY Jim Cosgrove
Last of three parts
The missionary efforts of the Church must be fostered. This Synod for America has been for all of us a reminder of the gifts we have shared through the evangelizing efforts of previous generations, of the gifts given by the sending Churches and the gifts they have been given in return by the receiving Churches. The New Evangelization envisages a continued exchange of gifts with many ways of collaboration between our local Churches in the common work of sharing the Gospel. Priests and other missionaries from the North continue to be needed in the South and elsewhere. At the same time, the Church in the South has intensified its efforts to send missionaries to the North and to other lands. They come to minister to their people and proclaim the Gospel to all. This missionary exchange is at the heart of the New Evangelization to which the Holy Father has so often called the whole Church. “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach good news!” (Rom 10, 15).
The Communications Culture
The media of social communications play an increasingly influential role in the life of society and the Church. They are creating a “new culture.” As the Holy Father has said, this “new culture” arises not only from the content of these means of communications “but from the very fact that there exist new ways of communicating with new languages, new techniques, and a new psychology” (Redemptoris Missio, 37). The Church needs to continue the development of her own use of these means in service of the Gospel. Her dedicated corps of professionals in communications can serve as the leaven which influences those in a field of endeavor often unmindful of religious values to reconsider their values for the sake of society. St. Paul writes in Romans, “And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without a preacher?” (Rom 10, 14). And indeed we must learn to preach in the new language to which so many have become accustomed through the contemporary means of mass communications.
Consequently, the New Evangelization requires cultures that are open to faith in God where believers can contribute to society. For the most part, we in America enjoy the blessings of religious liberty. Still, as the Church lives out the Gospel, in proclaiming the kingdom of God, in advocating justice for the poor, and in defending human life and dignity, she faces many obstacles. In some places, despite legal protection of the Church, bishops, priests, deacons, delegates of the Word, consecrated and lay people are penalized and slandered, intimidated and even slain for their Gospel defense of the poor. In still other places, a new, aggressive secularism would deny a voice to people of faith in the public arena and demean the enormous contribution of the Church to public life. Accordingly, we appeal to the faithful in public life and to people of good will who have influence on public opinion to stand with us in defense of the Gospel of Life against abortion and euthanasia. We also call on them to stand with us against anti-religious prejudice, and to support the contributions of the Church and other communities of faith to the common good, which will be fully realized when we reach the Father's house.
Do Not Be Afraid
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we have described the joys and sorrows, the hopes and the needs of America. In the face of all the pain and suffering in the world, shall we lose heart and become discouraged? In the power of the Holy Spirit, we say to you: Jesus Christ has overcome the world. He has sent His Holy Spirit among us to make all things new again; indeed, in the words of Holy Scripture, to renew the face of the earth. This then is our simple message: Jesus Christ is Lord! His resurrection fills us with hope; his presence on our journey fills us with courage. We say to you, as the Holy Father tells us all so often: Do not be afraid. The Lord is with you on the way, go forth to meet him.
In the final part of their concluding message from the Nov. 16-Dec.12 Special Assembly of the Synod for America, the bishops urge solidarity with the poor and declare that wars, conflicts, and the arms races have no place on God's earth.
And where shall we meet him? We can find him dwelling within us if only we will open our hearts to the challenge of his love (cf. Jn 14, 23). We can find him in our neighbor, especially in the poor and the hungry and those in want (cf. Mt 25, 40). We can meet him personally whenever two or three of us gather together in his name (cf. Mt 18, 20). We can discover him in his Word (cf. Jn 1, 1) and in the wonder of his world (cf. Rom 1, 20). We encounter him in the sacraments, especially in the Sacrament of Reconciliation which is the sacrament of his mercy (cf. Jn 20, 21-23). Most perfectly we encounter him in the Eucharist where he wills to feed us with his own Body and Blood (cf. Jn 6, 51 ff). In a word, Jesus desires to be present with us always. Let each of us follow the admonition of the Letter to the Hebrews: “And let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith…” (Heb 12, 2).
Walking With Christ
If we come to this encounter with the risen Jesus, as did Mary Magdalene and the Apostles after the resurrection, we shall find ourselves changed. We shall accept the call to conversion, to a change of life, to a new beginning in grace. This change of heart will not only touch our individual lives, but it will challenge our society, the Church herself, us as pastors, and all the world to turn from hesitant and wary steps to walk in joy with Jesus on the road to ever lasting life. This conversion will touch the lives of the rich and the poor, the powerful and the weak. It will remind the politicians of their responsibility to foster the common good; and it will challenge the economists to find a way to solve the material inequalities of our societies.
If we come with courage to this personal encounter with Jesus Christ, we shall find there an irresistible call to communion, modeled and patterned by the inner communion of the Most Blessed Trinity. In the power of the Holy Spirit, the divine source of communion, we shall find ourselves drawn to a deeper relationship of love and cooperation among ourselves as individuals and in the communities of which we are a part. The fervent call to that communion will bring closer together the local Churches of the north and the south in an increasing cooperation among the episcopal conferences and among the Catholic Churches of different rites. The same longing for communion will draw us and our Christian brothers and sisters of America closer to the unity which the Lord has willed. We have greatly appreciated the presence among us during this Synod of fraternal delegates from your Churches and ecclesial communities. In ways still unrecognized this same concern will guide us in the way of love to a greater sense of family with other religious communities, especially with the Jews, who are our elder brothers and sisters in faith.
Advancing the Kingdom in America
Ultimately, the personal encounter with Jesus Christ leads to solidarity, which is a requirement of charity, as it must be practiced in human relationships today. Solidarity in its completeness is the sharing of what we are, what we believe, and what we have. Jesus is the perfect example of this as he “emptied himself, taking the form of a servant” (Phil 2, 6). Solidarity impels us to look out for each other as brothers and sisters, even as Jesus looks out for us. It calls us to love each other and to share with each other. It reaches from the personal charity we owe the poor neighbor in our community to the call of the Holy Father to solidarity with the poor of the world in preparation for the celebration of the Great Jubilee. In the light of solidarity, wars, conflicts, and the arms races have no place on this planet created by a loving God.
This is the message of the Special Synod for America. It is a message that calls on each of us to continue to work together to advance the kingdom of God among the nations of America. Perhaps we can summarize our message in the words of the Holy Father: Do not be afraid to cross the threshold of hope. There we shall all meet the Lord, the living Jesus Christ, who is our hope and our salvation.
Confidently, then, we place this message in the hands of Mary, the Mother of God. In every country, she is hailed as Queen and Lady, and Mother too. In a special way, we, the Church in America, hail her under the title of Our Lady of Guadalupe. There, almost at the very beginning of the first evangelization of America, she showed herself to an Indian son of this land as the Mother of the poor. May she, the Star of the first and New Evangelization, guide our message to your hearts so that under her direction we may all truly meet Jesus, the Son of the Living God, who leads us with love and the power of his grace into the third millennium of his coming and into eternal life itself.