You might call it his mission statement or his avowed goal or his heart's desire at the best, when at the homily delivered on the occasion of the beginning of his Petrine Ministry on April 24, 2005, Pope Benedict XVI stated in profound prophetic anticipation that every baptized member should strive "to lead people out of the desert, towards the place of life, towards friendship with the Son of God, towards the One who gives life, and life in abundance."
Listening to this unmistakable message one would have guessed something was in the air. Something indeed was brewing. In his Apostolic Letter titled Porta Fidei (the door of faith) on October 11, 2011, Pope Benedict XVI declared that the Church is intent on focusing her every effort at sharing the joy of our encounter with Christ to everyone on the planet earth by observing a Year of Faith, Annus Fidei, running from October 11, 2012, to November 24, 2013.
Our encounter with Christ is such a life-altering experience that it needs to be shared with those who have not yet experienced it. The aim of this year is not only to rediscover one's journey of faith and to cherish the gift of faith one has received, but to bring or lead others to such an oasis of joy and life.
There is a profound significance to the date of the inauguration of this Year of Faith for two reasons. First, October 11, 2012, marks the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council in Rome. The documents of the Vatican II have been the cause of so much of transformation in the Church since its promulgation. Blessed John Paul II touted it as "the great grace bestowed upon the church in the twentieth century," and it has indeed become the "fresh wind for our sails."
This day also marks the 20th anniversary of the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It is no doubt a vibrant and resourceful tool for catechesis and is a direct offshoot of the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops held in 1985. In it one can find "the wealth of the teaching that the Church has received, safeguarded and proposed in her two thousand years of history" (Porta Fidei 11). Reading this beautiful document makes you relive your pulsating faith, knowing who we are as Catholics.
One could not fail to notice this new zeal in the Catholic Church today. This contemporary term "New Evangelization" is one that will be in the air for many years to come. It is an idea that was conceived by Blessed John Paul II when he first made it known to the world in Porte- au- Prince, Haiti, in 1983. It is an invitation to Catholics to renew their own faith.
It is a time now therefore to deepen and develop our faith. What impels us to go on this mandate or mission of evangelization? Why should anyone take up this charge?
It is not difficult for us to zero in on one indisputable reason, and "it is the love of Christ that fills our hearts and impels us to evangelize" (Porta Fidei 7). All the pages of the New Testament ooze out this message. The ultimate aim of the New Testament is to lead everyone to fall in love with the person of Jesus.
It will be sad if we are not aware of such a treasure. And thus a year such as this will not only help us to rediscover, understand, appreciate, confirm and explore ever anew the essential content of our faith, but help in passing it on to all others who have not had the opportunity to know the life giving Person of Jesus.
Sharing with others what you most cherish is but a special human characteristic. In this line it is interesting to note what Daniel N.T., a Sri Lankan ecumenical leader and poet says: "Evangelism is one beggar telling another where to find bread."
Our endeavor as Christians, who have known what the life giving bread is, are duty bound to tell others of this life giving bread and where to find it. This mission of speaking about the compelling person of the risen Christ becomes our raison d'etre and our organizing principle. Each person who has experienced the life giving person of the risen Christ becomes a joy-filled witness to Christ. Yet we are asked to do it in a way that is never threatening, never intrusive, but in a manner that is inviting.
True to what Blessed John Paul II said, our faith is never static; it only grows when shared and given away. During this Year of Faith, the Church is on the go in a very refreshing way to proclaim with joy what we have received to the people of our time who, in their despairing search for the meaning of life, often settle for things which give them fleeting and evanescent happiness, a moment's satisfaction, that soon leaves them empty and unsatisfied. This year aims at enabling the followers of Christ to be persons "turned to Christ."
We embark therefore on this great time of grace with hope because ultimately the power of the Word does not depend primarily on our action, but on God. We also embark on this journey with resolute anticipation in the goodness of humanity which, even during times of great challenge, will never fail to open up their hearts and minds to receiving the Good News.
May the refreshing breath of the Spirit turn our desert of ungodliness into an oasis of grace and peace! May the power of the Holy Spirit lift us from our "deep poverty" to a rich and abounding life in Christ. May we be joy-filled witnesses of the risen Christ!
Fr. John Britto, C.S.C., was ordained a priest in the Congregation of Holy Cross on April 30, 2011. He currently serves as the Parochial Vicar at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Viera, Fl. – a parish shepherded by Holy Cross. This blog post is compromised of excerpts from a longer article Fr. Britto wrote for his local newspaper on the Year of Faith. Stay tuned to the Spes Unica Blog for more on the Year of Faith and the way Holy Cross is celebrating it and living it.