By Frank Wessling
The new missionary of the Catholic Church and Christian faith is us — all of us who are baptized and say the Creed.
We have a great tradition of missionary clergy and professed women and men who carried the faith all over the Earth. Now it seems necessary to shift focus away from specialists and great traveler-pioneer-apostles like Paul, Augustine, Cyril and Methodius, Ricci, Serra, Catherine McCauley, Teresa of Calcutta. They seeded the world with the news that God is with us. Today that seed needs the water and sun of a billion believers each living the news.
This kind of spiritual energy is being called the “new evangelization” for a world still looking for love in all the wrong places. It means responsibility for every one of us to generate experiences of truth, charity and justice in our own orbits.
It means each of us being personal witnesses for God going over to the poor, risking change for the sake of justice, living in harmony with the environment.
Cardinal William Levada, the American who heads the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in the Roman Curia, recently called this part of the “new apologetics,” or systematic way of expressing the faith. If the Catholic faith is ridiculed or dismissed, as it often is today, it won’t be clever arguments that change hearts and minds, he said. It will be the personal witness of people living holy lives and helping others.
We need to explain that our energy comes from meditating on the Gospel of Jesus and immersion in a community that constantly renews itself with the body and blood of Christ. But explanation does not stand up without witness.
The readings at Mass during this Easter season include some of the vision of a new heaven and new earth from the Book of Revelation:
“Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race. He will dwell with them and they will be his people and God will always be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, for the old order has passed away” (Rev. 21:3-4).
It’s up to each of us to show that this vision is already happening, that the “old order” is already passing. We don’t feed from it; we believe in the new order of unbounded love.
We live for the health of everyone around us, not just our own.
We live for justice that frees everyone to live as God designed us to live.
We reveal over and over what faith in Christ has done to us: our joy is evident in sharing everything we are and have, not in what we grasp and hold to ourselves.
We make it clear that while this life is precious as a gift, it has further, ultimate value as preparation for divine love. We respect death as both an end and a passage, but more as a passage. That hope defines us. It’s why we share as we do.
This kind of evangelization is mission work for all of us. Each of us will have our own way of doing it, but have no doubt: the “missionaries” of today look at us from our mirrors.