The Church as Foundation of the New Evangelization
Today the Church of Washington is celebrating the annual White Mass, which takes its name from the white garments of our baptism, which in turn represent our new life as adopted children of God. This liturgy hosted by our archdiocesan Department of Special Needs Ministries is a beautiful expression of the Church’s culture of inclusion and belonging. This Eucharistic celebration recognizes how everyone is invited to respond to God’s call to Holiness to the best of their ability. Everyone brings valuable gifts to the Body of Christ and the life and mission of the Church.
This baptism – and the renewal of baptismal promises in this Eucharist – is not something we do ourselves individually, but is expressly an action of the Church which, like a mother, gives birth to new children and continues to nurture, sustain and sanctify them by virtue of Christ’s love. Precisely as the sign and instrument of salvation instituted by Jesus (Lumen Gentium, 1), the Church is the home of the Good News and font of the New Evangelization, as affirmed by the 2012 Synod of Bishops.
As was said by Saint John Paul II – whose feast day is usually observed today – out of love for humanity, “The Church’s fundamental function in every age and particularly in ours is to direct man’s gaze, to point the awareness and experience of the whole of humanity towards the mystery of God, to help all men to be familiar with the profundity of the Redemption taking place in Christ Jesus” (Redemptor Hominis, 10).
In fact, rootedness in the living faith tradition of the Church in communion with the Lord is essential to our efforts in the New Evangelization to revitalize and deepen our own faith, and to confidently re-propose the Gospel life in such a way to encourage those who have strayed to rejoin the flock and to allow those who do not really know Jesus to encounter his liberating truth and saving love. While God does wish all to be saved, the Church is not simply one way among many to reach him, all of them equally valid. It is out of his universal salvific will that God in Jesus specifically established the Church to continue his living presence and work of redemption.
The Church is further indispensable in proclaiming the great works of the Lord and teaching his divine word since concepts such as incarnation, resurrection, redemption, sacrament, divine mercy and grace have little meaning for many people in a secularist culture where skepticism and relativism prevail with a loss of appreciation for God and the transcendent. Without this theological foundation of faith which seeks understanding, the New Evangelization would remain unintelligible for many.
While the world makes many promises which people invariably find wanting, it is clear that our salvation is intimately related to the great sacrament that is the Church. In God’s plan, it is through this body of Christ on earth that we both manifest the kingdom coming to be now and realize our part in it in the eternal life of the Lord.
This is the final installment in a six-part series on the New Evangelization.