The Good News of Salvation in the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ
Although superseded this year because it falls on a Sunday, October 15 is usually the day when the Church lifts up for us Saint Teresa of Avila, a doctor of the Church whose witness and writings continue to offer lessons for the people of God. Like the modern age with its rapid changes and diminished appreciation for God, the 16th century in which Saint Teresa lived called for a renewal of faith, specifically a Christian life that is defined by an encounter with Jesus. Thus, she provides a good example for us today of the New Evangelization.
When Jesus first came among us, he offered a whole new way of living. Young Teresa responded whole-heartedly to this invitation, but upon entering the Carmelite community in Spain, she found that in her community and throughout the Church there were many for whom the faith had grown lukewarm, whose prayer had become rote. She asked herself what was wrong and she found that for her and many others, they forgot that in the Mass and in their daily prayer, they were encountering the living Christ whose passion, death and resurrection has redeemed the world. This reality changes that nature of my life and your life forever.
It was the conviction of Pope Benedict XVI when he called the Synod on the New Evangelization and of Pope Francis as he summarized the fruits of the Synod in his exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), that all of us become evangelist – the disciple who shares the faith. Our message is simple and clear: God loves us, Christ died for us and, in the Holy Spirit, we have new and everlasting life. The proclamation of the Paschal Mystery of Jesus Christ is meant to bring about repentance of sin, conversion of hearts, and a decision of faith. Pope Francis asks that all of us act as missionary disciples who can affirm our faith in the meaning of Jesus’ death and resurrection and can give witness to the joy that we have found in relationship with the Lord. This joy then becomes an invitation to others to encounter Christ and thereby discover not only a whole new way of living but a whole new way of being.
For Saint Teresa, it was the primacy of prayer and the reforming of her fellow sisters’ lives around common prayer, the celebration of the Mass and a simplicity of life that brought them back into an intense, loving relationship with the Lord. Like this exemplary evangelizer, we may need to examine the quality of our prayer life and courageously ask if our own faith has become lukewarm. If we are strong in our faith and find joy in our life with the Lord, how willing are we to share the hope of salvation in the Lord with others, to invite others to an encounter and relationship with our Redeemer Jesus who is God become man? Perhaps, through the intercession of Saint Teresa, we can ask the Lord to help us grow in holiness and live boldly as missionary disciples.
This is the fourth installment of a six-part series on the New Evangelization.