The Convocation of Catholic Leaders and the Joy of the Gospel
Today the Church celebrates the great feast of the Apostles, Saints Peter and Paul, including their bold missionary spirit, of which we are heirs. As Pope Francis said at the canonization of another missionary, Saint Junípero Serra, “We are indebted to a tradition, a chain of witnesses who have made it possible for the Good News of the Gospel to be, in every generation, both ‘good’ and ‘news.’”
Desiring to be faithful to our missionary mandate and tradition, the bishops and lay leaders from dioceses across the country are gathering July 1-4 in Orlando, Florida, for the Convocation of Catholic Leaders. The theme of this assembly of more than 3,500 diocesan and parish leaders is “The Joy of the Gospel in America.” Participants will pray and reflect on how we, the Church in the U.S., can better hand on the gift we have received from the Lord in a way that moves us forward at a time of particular challenge. Also, it is my honor to have been asked to give an address on Sunday afternoon on “The Radical Call to Missionary Discipleship.”
In the Acts of the Apostles, the word that describes the Apostles after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost is “bold.” Peter boldly stands up and preaches the Good News of the Resurrection. Paul boldly announces the Word in frenetic movement around the world. Today, as missionary disciples ourselves, we must show a similar boldness in the form of confidence in Christ. We followers of Christ must be people who radiate Christ’s love and are a beacon of his kingdom.
This Convocation is a time for Church leaders to be renewed in their own faith and to bring back to their own dioceses best practices, new ideas and a sense of urgency to move their local church boldly forward in the implementation of the New Evangelization. In a particular way, “We want to enter fully into the fabric of society, sharing the lived of all, listening to their concerns, helping them materially and spirituality in their needs, rejoicing with those who rejoice, weeping with those who weep; arm in arm with others, we are committed to building a new world,” says Pope Francis (Evangelii Gaudium, 269).
Moreover, it is not only these gathered leaders who are on the front lines of sharing the joy of the Gospel – all of us are meant to offer this kind of witness. To be a missionary disciple is not for a few, nor should it to be tepid or banal, but dynamic, bold. It is not a nine-to-five job, but is meant to inform and vitalize our entire life.