Growing in Confidence in the Truth of the Faith
Our Church of Washington has been engaged for some time now in reflection on the New Evangelization. We are exploring how clergy and laity can discover fresh resources, open original avenues and summon new strength to advance the Good News of the Lord. One challenge some of us have encountered at one time or another – maybe all of us – is that we might be too timid or reticent to share our faith with another person. Often, as I noted in a previous blog, this stems from our own insufficient knowledge of the faith, which in turn can cause us to lose confidence in its truth.
We live in a time in which people question the very existence of an objective truth, let alone a God who became man in the person of Jesus and experienced all of what it means to be human. The confidence and boldness to be an evangelizer comes from integrating our relationship with Jesus, our knowledge of the faith and our witness in the way we live our lives.
What is the source of this confidence? Christ is the teacher of his people. But his words, his teaching, the meaning of his life and mission come to us through the Church. It is by his intention and will that his new Body, the Church, continues to free us from the despair of ignorance and doubt, from the frightening fear that nothing makes sense. “For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth,” Jesus said (John 18:37).
The Church exists in order to preach the Gospel, and from the time Our Lord entrusted her to Peter and all of his successors, the Church has proclaimed the truth she received from Jesus Christ. Grounding our faith in the teaching of the Church insures its authenticity.
In our faith journey, we are not alone – the Lord sent the gift of the Paraclete to strengthen and protect our faith. “The Spirit would then teach the disciples all things and bring to their remembrance all that Christ had said (cf. John 14:26), since it falls to him, as the Spirit of truth (cf. John 15:26), to guide the disciples into all truth (cf. John 16:13)” (Sacramentum Caritatis 12).
Bishops and priests have a particular responsibility through the Sacrament of Holy Orders to preach the Word of God. The Catholic faithful look to the priest, in the pulpit and in so many other settings, to proclaim the received tradition – that which has been handed down from the Apostles.
The laity have an apostolate, as well, which according to the Second Vatican Council’s document on the laity, “is exercised when they work at the evangelization and sanctification of people; it is exercised, too, when they endeavored to have the Gospel’s Spirit permeate and improve the temporal order going about it in a way that bears clear witness to Christ and helps towards the salvation of men” (Apostolicam Actuositatem 2).
Certain lay vocations carry particular responsibility. Catholic homes are thought of as a domestic church where the faith is taught and celebrated, with parents being the first teachers of their children. Catholic educators and catechists support parents in faith formation of children in addition to instructing adults in the faith.
Every baptized person has a story to tell and a responsibility to bear witness to the faith. One simple definition of evangelist is the disciple who shares his or her faith.
In the Acts of the Apostles the word to describe the Apostles after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost is “bold.” Today we must all show a certain boldness born of confidence in Christ, his message and his Church. When we look around and see the vast field open, waiting for us to sow seeds of new life, we must do so also with joy. Our message should be one that inspires others joyfully to follow us along the path to the kingdom of God. Joy must characterize the evangelizer. At the heart of our joy is the confidence that what we believe is true.
A confident witness is a credible witness. The success of the New Evangelization is dependent on Catholics who are hope-filled credible witnesses committed to sharing the Gospel message of new and eternal life in the love of Jesus Christ.