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March 1, 2012

Taking freedom seriously in Lent -- Laity called "nuclear energy" for evangelization - Evangelizing with a smile - Stepping stones to peace

In this edition:
1. New evangelization, not new triumphalism.
2. Eucharistic dismissal formulas and mission.
3. Current quotes to ponder:
a) Laity, a "nuclear energy" for evangelization;
b) highlighting compassion in Lent.
4. Taking freedom seriously this Lent.
5. Why meditation matters for the world.
6. Lenten repentance.
7. Arms treaty: Necessary step to peace.
8. Peace essentials in the Middle East.

1. New Evangelization, Not New Triumphalism

"The new evangelization is accomplished with a smile, not a frown," the now-Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York told the College of Cardinals in Rome Feb. 17, the day before the consistory at which he and 21 others were created cardinals.

In addition, he said, the mission to the nations ("missio ad gentes") is "all about a yes to everything decent, good, true, beautiful and noble in the human person."

In an address on the new evangelization and missionary action, he said the church's people are impelled today "to think about church in a fresh way: to think of the church as a mission." He recalled Blessed John Paul II teaching that the church does not "have a mission," as though mission were "one of many things the church does." Rather, "the church is a mission."

There is "no opposition between" the new evangelization, whose scope can encompass believers themselves, and the mission to the nations, which can encompass nonbelievers and agnostics, according to the cardinal. "It is not an either-or, but a both-and proposition."

He said, "The new evangelization generates enthusiastic missionaries; those in the apostolate of the 'missio ad gentes' require, themselves, to be constantly evangelized anew."

The new evangelization is not a new triumphalism, Cardinal Dolan made clear. True, "we are convinced, confident and courageous in the new evangelization because of the power of the Person sending us on mission," he said. New evangelizers are confident "because of the truth of the message and the deep-down openness in even the most secularized of people to the divine."

So the church is "confident, yes!" But triumphant? "Never."

What keeps those in the church "from the swagger and arrogance of triumphalism?" It is the recognition, said the cardinal, that "the church herself needs evangelization! This gives us humility. The church has a deep need for the interior conversion that is at the marrow of the call to evangelization."

And what provides those in the church with the confidence they need? It is the belief, along "with the philosophers and poets of old, who never had the benefit of revelation, that even a person who brags about being secular and is dismissive of religion has within an undeniable spark of interest in the beyond and recognizes that humanity and creation are a dismal riddle without the concept of some kind of creator."

Jesus is told in the Gospel, "All the people are looking for you!" And, said Cardinal Dolan, "they still are."

Today, "the new evangelization is urgent because secularism has often choked the seed of faith," Cardinal Dolan commented. But he said this choking sadly was "made easy because so many believers really had no adequate knowledge or grasp of the wisdom, beauty and coherence of the truth."

In light of that, he said "our mission, the new evangelization, has essential catechetical and ecclesial dimensions."

He pointed out that in many countries represented in the College of Cardinals "the ambient public culture once transmitted the Gospel, but does so no more." In such circumstances, he suggested, it is essential that all Catholics participate in extending to others an "invitation to enter into friendship" with the Lord.

Vatican Council II "and the two great popes who have given it an authoritative interpretation are urging us to call our people to think of themselves as missionaries and evangelists," he said.

One "necessary ingredient in the recipe" for effective mission and the new evangelization is the realization that "God does not satisfy the thirst of the human heart with a proposition, but with a Person whose name is Jesus," the cardinal told the College of Cardinals.

He said, "The invitation implicit in the 'missio ad gentes' and the new evangelization is not to a doctrine but to know, love and serve -- not a something, but a Someone." (Cardinal Dolan's speech appears in the March 1 edition of Origins, CNS Documentary Service)

2. Mission: New Eucharistic Dismissal Formulas

The dismissal at the conclusion of the Mass is a "very special moment" that challenges and commissions those present to connect the Eucharist with their mission in the world, Bishop Ricardo Ramirez of Las Cruces, N.M., said in a recent speech in Dallas, Texas, to the Southwest Liturgical Conference.

New options for the wording of the dismissal that are part of the revised translation of the Mass were discussed by Bishop Ramirez, including: "Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord," and "Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life."

These new dismissal texts "bring fresh and needed clarity to what happens at the end of the celebration of the mysteries of the Eucharist," the bishop said in his Jan. 27 remarks. He explained that "these few words succinctly express the missionary nature of the church."

The dismissal texts, the bishop observed, "do nothing less than connect what we have just done in Eucharist with what we live out as 'disciple-missionaries,' a hyphenated term introduced at the 2007 Fifth General Conference of the Bishops of Latin America held in Aparecida, Brazil.

Bishop Ramirez said it is important to understand that the words of dismissal at the conclusion of the Mass are intended to "remind us of our central identity: We who believe in Jesus Christ follow him as disciple-missionaries."

Expanding upon the insights of the Aparecida conference, which he attended, Bishop Ramirez urged that the Mass not be understood "as an end in itself, for it is the preparation for our being sent." He called the Eucharist "the school of ministry," adding that "part of the preparation for being sent is being enlightened through and through by the word of life and fed with Christ's body and blood."

Aparecida's concluding document spoke of the Mass as "the privileged place of the disciples' encounter with Jesus Christ." Bishop Ramirez quoted the document saying:

"With this sacrament, Jesus attracts us to himself and makes us enter into his dynamism toward God and toward neighbor. There is a close connection between the three dimensions of the Christian vocation: believing, celebrating and living the mystery of Jesus Christ."

The bishop said it is interesting to note that the Aparecida conference asked every bishops' conference in Latin America and the Caribbean "to conduct a continental mission , which would have no end but which would continue indefinitely. The idea of this mission was to emphasize that the church is always in mission."

Bishop Ramirez said that, to him, "the Eucharist has two forces of energy -- one that summons us to the center and the other which sends us forth, like the symbol of the spiral."

The Eucharist "brings us together to the center of our Christian selves, and that is, of course, the person of Jesus Christ himself," Bishop Ramirez continued. "At the same time, the Eucharist at the moment of dismissal sends us forth to the ends of the earth, similar to the way the apostles were sent on the mission to set the world ablaze with the Word of the Gospel and the powerful Spirit of the resurrection."

3. Current Quotes to Ponder

The Laity, "Nuclear Energy" for Evangelization: "The novelty in today's period of evangelization consists in the laity. We all know about the nuclear energy that is released by the fission of the atom. An atom of uranium absorbs a high energy neutron and splits in two, creating two new elements from the original; energy and more neutrons are released though this process. This begins a chain reaction. The two new elements in turn can themselves absorb neutrons and break into four new atoms, and so on to the point where the energy released in the end is enormous. It is not necessarily destructive energy because nuclear energy can be used for peaceful purposes on behalf of the human race. Similarly, we can say that lay people are a kind of nuclear energy in the church on a spiritual level. A layperson caught up with the Gospel and living next to other people can 'contaminate' two others, and these two, four others, etc. Since lay Christians number not only tens of thousands like the clergy but hundreds of millions, they can truly play a decisive role in spreading the beneficial light of the Gospel in the world." (From a Dec. 23, 2011, presentation to Pope Benedict XVI and others at the Vatican by Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, the preacher of the papal household)

Highlighting Compassion in Lent: "Compassion was truly one of Jesus' most visible characteristics. So often in Scripture we learn of his ability to set aside the bias and the customs of his time to see the human being before him and to take pity, to hear that person's needs or tend to the person's soul. We learn of the miracles he performed to restore health or peace of mind, despite the criticism the Lord knew his detractors would use against him." (From the Feb. 27 "Monday Memo" to the diocese by Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson, Ariz.)

4. Lent: Taking Freedom Seriously

Freedom was something Dietrich Bonhoeffer often wrote about, Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury said in a sermon the first Sunday of Lent. The Anglican leader noted that in a 1944 poem, Bonhoeffer "sketched out what he thought was involved in real freedom: discipline, action, suffering and death."

Of course, those characteristics are not what people usually associate with the word "freedom," Archbishop Williams said. However, with these reflections Bonhoeffer "takes us into the heart of what it is for someone to be lastingly free."

The archbishop recalled that Bonhoeffer, a German Lutheran pastor, visited New York in1939. He had "made himself deeply unpopular with the German regime, making broadcasts critical of Hitler and running a secret training institution for pastors in Germany who could not accept the way the Nazi state was trying to control the church."

He had opportunities to remain in America, yet, "after a draining inner struggle," Bonhoeffer "decided to sail back to Germany," Archbishop Williams said. He left in July 1939, "knowing that he was returning to a situation of extreme danger."

And "six years later, he was dead, executed for treason in a concentration camp, leaving behind him one of the greatest treasures of modern Christianity in the shape of the letters he wrote to family and close friends from prison."

The freedom Bonhoeffer described in his 1944 poem is, said the archbishop, "the freedom to do what you know you have to do." He explained:

"The society you live in will give you all sorts of messages about what you should be doing, and, far more difficult, your own longings and preferences will push you in various directions. You have to watch your own passions and feelings, and test them carefully, and then you have to have the courage to act.

"When you act, you take risks. You seemingly become less free. But what is really happening is that you are handing over your freedom to God and saying, 'I've done what I had to; now it's over to you.' Freedom, [Bonhoeffer] says, is 'perfected in glory' when it's handed over to God."

Archbishop Williams said that the understanding of freedom that sustained Bonhoeffer after he was imprisoned was "really very like what Jesus talks about in the Beatitudes: 'Blessed are the poor, those who are hungry for justice, those who make peace'; these are the people who have got in touch with what eternally matters, with God's reality."

And these "are the free people because they have been liberated from all the fictions, great and small, that keep us locked into our anxieties and ambitions," Archbishop Williams commented. He said, "These are people who are not afraid to die because they have discovered what supremely matters and are willing to hand over everything to God."

5. Why Meditation Matters for the World

Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury included some thoughts in his sermon the first Sunday of Lent about why time spent in meditation need not constitute a flight from the world.

"Some religious people," the Anglican leader said, "talk about letting the surface of our mind settle so that it can truly reflect God, like a still pool." However, "as [Dietrich] Bonhoeffer's life and death make clear, this is not some sort of refusal of the world."

It was Bonhoeffer's thought, he said, that "we want to rise from meditation different from what we were when we sat down to it."

The archbishop suggested that meditation leads to action in the world that can change it effectively because a way has been opened for "God's own activity." It is not "a luxury," he said, to look "quietly at all the clutter that prevents us from seeing ourselves honestly" and to look "quietly at the ways in which the world we live in muffles the truth and so frustrates the search for justice and love."

In fact, Archbishop Williams continued, "this is how the truth makes us free -- not free to do what we fancy at any given moment, but free to be real, to be truthful, to be 'in the truth,' as the New Testament puts it."

He asked, "What other sort of freedom is finally worth having?" This freedom "may cost us everything we thought we needed to hang onto. But as the history of Christ's journey to the cross and the resurrection makes clear, the end of the story is a fulfillment, a homecoming, for which we can never find adequate words. It's the freedom to be what we most deeply are."

6. Lent: Repentance

It is hard for the term "repentance" to "carve out its place in our contemporary vocabulary. It is not something ritualistic. It is about a change in life, a turning round," Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin, Ireland, said in an Ash Wednesday homily for students.

Repentance has to do with "returning to what is essential in human life," he said.

Archbishop Martin suggested that repentance is about more than "a life marked by fasting, weeping and mourning." Rather, repentance has to do with "discerning what integrity and uprightness of heart really mean."

Of course, Lent in the church's tradition "is a time of fasting and prayer and works of charity," the archbishop acknowledged. But he said that "these are in a certain sense just the instruments the church proposes to attain the real purpose of Lent, namely, to attain uprightness and integrity in our own hearts through a coming back to God."

He suggested to the young people that they "can only find the path of return to God through asking the right questions" and that "these questions are not first of all about God, but about" themselves. What are these questions? Archbishop Martin said:

"They are the deeper questions about what it means to be a person - about, Why am I here, what does human freedom mean? What can I do with my life, and what should I do with my life?"

He proposed that the more "we reflect on human freedom and on ultimate truth, the more we will have to face a sort of contradiction: Our search for the meaning of our humanity inevitably leads us beyond that humanity, toward something new, toward transcendence, toward a mystery."

Thus, he said, "the search for the meaning of our humanity must lead us at least to confront the question of the transcendent."

7. Arms Treaty: Necessary Step Toward Peace

The objective of an international treaty governing the arms trade should not be merely to regulate conventional arms but, "above all, the disarming of the international illicit market" in armaments, Archbishop Francis Chullikatt, the Vatican ambassador to the United Nations, said Feb. 13.

On the international level, the lack of "effective monitoring systems" results in an unregulated trade of arms that has real consequences for people's lives, the archbishop said. It harms the development of societies and heightens the risk of conflict.

Archbishop Chullikatt spoke to a committee preparing for a U.N. Conference next July on the Arms Trade Treaty. "The quest for a world more respectful of the dignity of human persons and the value of human life must be the founding principle" of the treaty, he said.

Among his recommendations, the archbishop urged that the treaty be broad enough to include the regulation of "small arms and light weapons," which he said often enter the black market easily "and give rise to a series of humanitarian problems."

He cautioned against making simple comparisons between the trade of arms and the trade of "other goods exchanged in global or domestic markets." The world needs "a strong, effective and credible" treaty to regulate the trade of arms and munitions, he said.

Adopting a strong, effective arms treaty "could represent a meaningful sign of the political will of nations and governments to ensure peace, justice, stability and prosperity in the world," said the archbishop.

8. Peace Essentials in the Middle East

"We need people who are not afraid of peace." What people ought to fear is war, and thus not consider military power their only option, Latin-rite Patriarch Fouad Twal of Jerusalem said in Washington Feb. 28 during a visit to the U.S. Institute for Peace, where he participated in a panel discussion.

To achieve true peace in the Holy Land, the patriarch indicated, people must do more than talk about who is right and who is wrong. "Peace cannot be obtained without justice and without forgiveness," he said. And "forgiveness cannot be obtained without sacrifices, cannot be obtained without compromises."

However, the patriarch said he thinks peace is worth "the price of sacrifice and compromise." He described peace as "a gift given by God, but entrusted to man, to human beings, who must struggle, who must work, who must pray to obtain peace."

A stepping stone toward peace in the region can be found in the raising of today's children, Patriarch Twal suggested. "Our children, the Jewish children, Muslims and Christians -- when they study together, when they play soccer together, when they eat together, when they dance together, we can prepare a new generation."

Just a bit more than two months ago, in his 2011 Christmas message, the patriarch expressed hope for "a just and comprehensive peace to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict." The Jerusalem patriarchate adheres "to the position taken by the Holy See, clearly acknowledging the two-state solution," he said.

Achieving peace among the parties to a dispute does not require, he insisted, that one party "be against the other." He said, "We are for the welfare and interests of the whole world: peace, security, mutual respect and dignity."

Interreligious dialogue is indispensable for creating "a climate of trust, friendship and collaboration" in his part of the world, the patriarch said in his Christmas message. He viewed interreligious dialogue meetings as a way to dissipate prejudices, "foster mutual respect, learn about our common values and build bridges of common sense and good will."

At the same time, he hoped "the importance of dialogue in everyday life, in our schools and various institutions" would not be forgotten.