Easter joy in the new evangelization

March 26, 2013

During Sunday Mass Catholics throughout the world proclaim their belief in Jesus Christ’s resurrection by saying, “On the third day He rose again in accordance with the Scriptures.” This profession of faith gains new vigor each year as we reach the culmination of our Lenten journey, recalling Jesus’ own preparation for his earthly ministry in the desert, itself a reenactment of the journey through the desert of God’s chosen people before reaching the promised land. 

Easter Sunday is the high point of our liturgical calendar, as St. Gregory Nazianzen eloquently states in his 45th oration, “The Lord’s Passover, the Passover, and again I say the Passover to the honor of the Trinity. This is to us a Feast of feasts and a Solemnity of solemnities as far exalted above all others… as the Sun is above the stars.” Our faith hinges on Jesus’ resurrection as St. Paul reminds us, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins (1 Cor 15:17).” 

Reflecting on our Lord’s resurrection should bring us great joy. Joy at the hope of new life that Jesus Christ opens for us, as open as the entrance to the tomb the women found empty on that glorious morning. The tomb became the womb of life, as Blessed John Paul II would say, and joy is our response to that new life in Christ, in knowing that death has been defeated, and eternal life is available to us as we are inserted in Paschal Mystery through the waters of baptism. Our Lord’s resurrection gives us hope of our own resurrection at the end of times, and this new life is a much needed source of hope in a world mired in the desolation of secularism and a host of other maladies. The miracle of the Resurrection compelled the apostles in kerygmatic fervor, as we read in Peter’s preaching in the Acts of the Apostles, “This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses!” (Acts 2:32). 

In this Year of Faith that our now Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI proclaimed, we would do well to try and regain some of the Easter fervor in all our catechetical activities. That is, after all, the tenor of our recent catechetical documents, exemplified in the National Directory of Catechesis as it describes the new evangelization as the “clear and unequivocal proclamation of the person of Jesus Christ, that is, the preaching of his name, his teaching, his life, his promises and the Kingdom which he has gained for us by his Paschal Mystery” (NDC #17a). The new evangelization being proposed since the Second Vatican Council is not merely another program in addition to what we already do, but a “way of seeing the world around us and how to proclaim the Gospel” as Donald Cardinal Wuerl of Washington stated summarizing the work of the fathers of the Synod of Bishops on the new evangelization.

The new evangelization starts with us, examining our own commitment to our baptismal promises. We are called to deepen our faith, to believe in the Gospel before we are able to echo the message of salvation. Being involved in presenting formation programs, it is encouraging to see the ever increasing numbers of adults in attendance. Not so encouraging are the statistics, such as the 2008 study on the sacraments by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, showing that only 23 percent of U.S. Catholics regularly attend Mass once a week. Our task then is to re-propose the truths of our faith so that Catholics not living their faith may come to an encounter with Christ. We need to help people move beyond simply knowing about Jesus Christ to having a relationship with Him. A relational faith is what it takes to live out the Eucharist as the “source and summit of our faith.” 

May the proof of our faith, our Lord’s resurrection, be always a source of joy and a catalyst for the new evangelization.