Post Synod Ruminations
We came together confused yet willing to listen, hurting yet full of hope, feeling abandoned yet reaching out to help. We were a sign of contradiction for the world and for ourselves. We came as evangelizers in need to hear what is good and holy, beautiful and true ourselves. In prayer, we told Jesus our confusions and doubts, our hurts and pains, our sins and betrayals and He spoke to us and gave us hope. We recognized the Lord as he spoke to us in prayer and as he broke the bread. We can say with joy now, “We have seen the Lord”.
Indeed the new evangelization must be the written essays fruit of discernment coming from a Church in contemplation. Without contemplation, any action on behalf of evangelization is but a human exercise. Evangelization is an impetus coming not from intellectual hair splitting analysis or strategic planning but coming from above, from the Spirit who is constantly at work in the Church, the Spirit to whom Jesus consecrated His Church.
The new evangelization is neither a self defence of the Church for its self preservation nor a self protection from irrelevance. It is not for the sake of maintaining the status quo of the Church’s influence in a world that is so different from the world that the Lord Jesus offers to his disciples, a world to which the Church must never belong. It is not a self absorbed and self conscious attempt of the Church to re-invent itself to make it more attractive. In fact, the new evangelization is not for sake of the Church. It is for the life of the world pro vita mundi. It is for God who is at work in the world.
What must we do?
We must look for the poor. The poor are forgotten or ignored and have been made invisible and distant. The poor are not asking for charity. Like sheep without a shepherd, the poor cannot recognize their shepherds anymore because the shepherds smell differently. Indeed the good shepherd must smell like the sheep. The poor are not asking for money. They are asking for Jesus. They can get food from the social welfare agency. They can get medicines Order esomeprazole buy virginia buy esomeprazole online without dr approval cheapest buy esomeprazole how to purchase esomeprazole substitute over theВ from the public clinics. They can be housed in government housing sites. From the Church, the poor want only Jesus. Who else can they turn to but the Church?
The poor ask for a little more of our time. They ask for presence without making them feel that we are in a rush for better things to do or for more important people to meet. The poor need to be assured that for their pastors, the faces of the poor is more important that the faces of their wristwatch.
The poor ask for friendship. The Church, while serving the hungry and the thirsty and the naked, must not forget that she is not a poverty alleviation agent of society but the conscience of humanity. It is our duty to make society understand that the poor ARE Jesus. It is the duty of our Church to make the poor understand that they are not too poor as to be unable to give Jesus to the affluent. The Church must be the conscience of the poor and the rich so that there may no longer be poor or rich; so that all may be one. Money is the least of all gifts. The first gift that we must give to one another is Jesus himself. At the sunset of our lives, we can only bring to heaven what we have given away. Nothing that has been given to us can be brought to the doors of his Kingdom, not even the graces we have received. Every grace is for sharing, for the building up of his kingdom and every bit of grace hoarded is lost. It is when we have truly emptied ourselves and given up all, that we can say we have loved like Jesus.
Where are the children?
The Church must look for the children and youth. The youth should not be told to wait for tomorrow to become relevant and important. The youth are the majority of the people of the world. Today belongs to them as much as the future. The new evangelization must be ready to give the youth a voice and the Church must lend the youth her ears and her heart. It is indeed only through the heart that we can hear the voice of the youth. Let us not wait for the youth to shout at us. Let us listen as they whisper. Let us listen to what they tweet and what they blog. Let us listen as they ask. We might not be able to answer all their questions and they do not expect us to do that anyway. If we can encourage the youth to talk as we to listen to them as Jesus listens and then teach them how to listen to Jesus, we will have a powerhouse in the Price of levitra professional cheapest vardenafil online generic pills 5mg for sale discount viagra Cialis the buy . Buy levitra without prescription 10mg prices Church not in the future but now. We do not need to be flippant and humorous to be with the youth. We just need to be Jesus for and with them.
Have we really lost the sheep?
The new evangelization must reach out to those who have been alienated from the Church. The hurting and the disillusioned, the misled and the confused, the ignored and the neglected must feel welcome and safe in the Church again. We the pastors must show that we are detached from the perks and privileges of our office; that our ordination is not a career ladder to pursue but a path of real service; that we can suffer without complaint; that we can be ignored and not begrudge; that we can let go generously without reluctance; that we can seek pardon without first offering excuses; that we can differ from those who do not share our opinions without losing civility and courtesy. Those whom the Church calls disillusioned Catholics say to us their pastors “We are not lost sheep”. In fact they say instead to us “YOU are lost shepherds”– that we did not really care for them. The sheep can endure our frailties but they cannot bear our arrogance in the confessional and the pulpit. Let us listen like Jesus did with the Samaritan woman by the well. The alienated are not asking for another desk to attend to them. They do not need an added survey to investigate their plight. They are only asking us their shepherds to return to the sheepfold and show them that we do care for them like shepherds for the sheep.
The new evangelization is not a call for new desks and new commissions. It rather calls for a new attitude of ministry, a new outlook at the world, a new way of being. The new evangelization is a call to conversion and that call is addressed to the evangelizers. If the evangelizers will not, the world will not believe. It is the poor and the children, the least, the last and the lost who will bring us to heaven.
In our homilies, I admonish you my brother shepherds to be extra sensitive to the needs of the children and the youth. The youth do not need hair splitting theological nuances during the homily. They are not expecting quotations from exegetes. They want to know the Gospel according to you, from your prayer. They only need to hear again and again that they are loved by God and loved by the Church. Let us speak the language of the poor when we preach at Mass and when we teach outside the liturgy. Talk about money during the homily is offensive. It does not inspire at all. Using telenovela characters as illustrations during homilies has no place in the sacred liturgy; it demeans it; it is vulgarity. In our homilies, let us be extra attentive to the confused and hurting, disillusioned and angry Catholics. Scolding parishioners during the homily is not good news at all. The Gospel is rich enough to inspire and ignite hearts. Let us use the homily to teach humbly, to inspire constantly and to bring joy to the laden and discouraged. One of the obstacles to new evangelization is the long unprepared Sunday homilies.
We are not afraid of the setting sun. We can walk through the night held securely by the hands of the Lord. The beauty of the moon and the brilliant stars will carry us through into the dawn of another beautiful day, the day of the Lord! Behold, he makes all things new!
+SOCRATES B. VILLEGAS
Archbishop of Lingayen Dagupan
Rome, October 29, 2012