By Mark Haney
The Catholic Times
LANSING — On the day when he gave each parish a copy of his first pastoral letter, “Go and Announce the Gospel of the Lord,” Bishop Earl Boyea got to speak of many issues addressed in the letter in a homily aimed at the priests of the Diocese of Lansing.
And yet the homily he gave at the Holy Thursday, April 5, Chrism Mass also spoke to the many lay leaders, pastoral administrators and parish representatives who fill St. Mary Cathedral for the service.
He wasted no time getting to the point.
“Ultimately,” he said, “we are to provide occasions for our whole community, especially those who do not know Jesus, to witness us living the Catholic faith and thus be drawn to the Lord. Blessed John Paul and Pope Benedict have called these the elements of the new evangelization. Yet, the newness is not the task itself. That task was proclaimed by the prophet Isaiah, realized in Jesus Christ and continues to the this day. And yet there is something new for our time. There is a new culture that we face. There are new evangelists. And there are new ways to evangelize.”
There also are new challenges in evangelization.
“First, what is new is that today we find ourselves in a culture which is fundamentally agnostic, if not atheistic,” he said. “ I do not mean this in a theoretical sense or a philosophical sense, but what I mean is practically speaking, most of our society — and dare I say even many of our Catholics — live their daily lives as if God does not exist or, at least, that is doesn’t matter that He exists.”
One thing missing today, he added, is the fervor shown by the saints.
“Let us be clear,” he said. “This fervor does not result from mere altruism. Rather, it is the love of Christ which impels them. This is what I mean. We do not find any today who are actually impelled by the love of Christ.”
It is up to the priests, he said, to be examples of a person impelled by the love of Christ.
“With fervor and impelled by that love, we will be models such that every Christian, seeing and hearing us, will know his or her own grounding in that same love,” he said. “And thus the Catechism instructs us: It is from God’s love for all men that the Church, in every age, receives both the obligation and the vigor of a missionary. For the love of Christ urges us on.
“Manifest the fervor of Christ rather than any fervor for comfort or recompense. Be impelled by the love of Christ, rather than by the need for attention. Christ does matter. Our cry, manifest both in our lives and in our words, to our society must be ‘Awake, O Sleeper! Arise from the dead and Christ will give you life.’”
Evangelization today also requires a Church-wide effort, the bishop said.
“If we are to build up our community of faith, if we are to bring back the lost sheep, if we are to be a light to the nations, we know, my brothers, that we as pastors of our local flocks cannot accomplish this task,” he said. “This work of God is bigger than us. The task given by us before He left this earth is also meant for all of the laity and for consecrated men and women to carry out. Everyone must be a missionary. Everyone must be an evangelizer. Everyone must be a saint.
“However, we do not give the charge to the people we serve and then wash our hands of the task. No, we must assist Christ as He equips the saints for the work of ministry, for the building up of the Body of Christ. Our first step is to call them, as well as calling ourselves, to penance and to renewal, to the narrow ways of the Cross, Our people are best equipped to spend their fervor when they know it is a share in the Cross of Jesus. We also equip them when we teach them patience, that the work we do is to plant seeds, to be leaven, to be light, to be the voices crying in the wilderness, all the while realizing it is God alone who gives the increase. We also equip them how to value the good that is in this world, to treasure what is true and beautiful, so they will be able then to show that Christ is the answer to all of the longings of the human heart.”
He also told those gathered in the cathedral that this new evangelization will need a new boldness that has been lacking in the faith.
“As the Second Vatican Council noted, the true apostle is on the lookout for occasions for announcing Christ by word either to unbelievers or to the faithful,” he said. “If Christ knocks on doors and awaits their opening, then we, too, must knock on doors. If Christ showed Himself in the public square, then we must show ourselves in the public square. If Christ took the taunts of the crowd and still proclaimed the message of His Father, then we, my brothers, must withstand patiently the opposition of this world and yet faithfully, with fervor, announce the good news. We also need the great gift of knowledge. Our people need to be better informed about the faith. And, let’s face it, one of the prime times for us to do this is in the homily. While fully being faithful to the reading of the day, we need to a little extra work to bring an element of catechesis to all that we do. The world yearns for truth. Christ is the truth. Let us make that connection and help our people to make that connection between Christ and the deep truth of all reality.”
Finally, the bishop urged his fellow priests, and all those in attendance, to pray for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit so that all might use all of their gifts to further the work of the Church and Jesus Christ.
“We, my brothers,” he said, “are responsible for building a band of disciples, a house of spiritual flames meant to set the world on fire, and a community of love which craves — craves! — to announce the Gospel of the Lord.