The Baptism of the Lord and the New Evangelization
January 13, 2013
By Fr. Tim Peters
Parochial Vicar Mission Basilica, San Juan Capistrano
“You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased”
In this Sunday’s reading from Luke’s Gospel (Luke 3:15-16, 21-22), the Father himself calls Christ His “Beloved Son!” Christ is the Son of God by nature and we are adopted sons and daughter by grace and through faith. In other words, our entrance into God’s family is totally a gift. It is a gift that we have received and one that we must invite others to receive. God’s children must always desire to see the family grow and for this reason all of us have a responsibility to help build up the family of God. I grew up in a large family of 12 children in all and I always remember the joyful news of another birth taking place or of siblings that were being adopted (4 in all). The family of faith is no different; we desire and are overjoyed to see it grow when more sons and daughters are united to it through Christ!!!
The bishops of the world together with the successor of St. Peter are calling on all members of the Church to participate in a “New Evangelization.” This New Evangelization is a presentation of the same Gospel with new energy, vigor and love. Even for the most committed members of the Church a deep conversion and recommitment to the Mission of Christ must take place in our own lives if we are to realize a fruitful new evangelization. For this to happen there must be a rediscovery of the ancient truths of the faith so there is always a true encounter with the person of Christ. This will make more fruitful our reading of the scriptures, celebration of the liturgy, prayer with our families, or participation in the life and activates of the Church. Would we expect anything different from the sons and daughters of the living God? Hence, we must rediscover the same great truth that Jesus’ first disciples discovered in Christ who is the Son of God and Savior of the world! Secondly, an ardent desire to communicate and share our faith with others must begin to grow within each one of us. The first Christians understood Christ to have fulfilled the ancient scriptures; he was the long awaited Messiah that they yearned to know. They brought this message to a world that had succumbed to polytheism, paganism and immorality. The new work of evangelization is one that starts with a deep interior conversion. One problem today is that many members of the faithful are living a mere shadow of the faith as they should be living; they are only partially evangelized!!! We must seek out these spiritually marginalized Catholics and seek to evangelize them. In other words there is still much work that needs to be done in order to help them live more fully like God’s children. Benedict XVI explains in His Apostolic Letter Porta Fidei:
Today too, there is a need for stronger ecclesial commitment to new evangelization in order to rediscover the joy of believing and the enthusiasm for communicating the faith. In rediscovering his love day by day, the missionary commitment of believers attains force and vigour that can never fade away. Faith grows when it is lived as an experience of love received and when it is communicated as an experience of grace and joy. It makes us fruitful, because it expands our hearts in hope and enables us to bear life-giving witness: indeed, it opens the hearts and minds of those who listen to respond to the Lord’s invitation to adhere to his word and become his disciples. Believers, so Saint Augustine tells us, “strengthen themselves by believing”. (Porta Fidei 7)
Thus I ask the question, “What does it mean to be sons and daughters of the living God?” In Christ we find the answer. The first thing that comes to mind is that Christ was filled with the Holy Spirit and He did the will of His Father. In Luke’s gospel account the Holy Spirit descended upon Christ and the Father spoke to His Son. After this account Jesus then began his ministry, he started to evangelize! Just as Christ received the Holy Spirit, so too all Christians must receive and be guided by the same Spirit, which in turn enables them to recognize and worship the Father as God’s children (Rom 8:15-17). Is the fire of the Holy Spirit truly burning in your life? If so you will see the fruits of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23) the first of these fruits is love/charity and it is this same love that compels us to evangelize (2 Cor 5:14). Led by this same love one will always want to do more for our Lord and they won’t be ashamed to share their faith with others even if they are rejected for doing so. Most importantly we must make an effort and not take rejection as an offense but see it as an invitation to further our own study of the faith and to continue the conversation. It’s amazing what the Holy Spirit can do if we just continue the conversation always being conscious of the most charitable manner in which to proceed. Secondly, Christ did the will of the Father perfectly and we must seek to follow His example. To do so, means that we must often walk against the temporary currents and trends of our own culture when they come in conflict with the eternal truths of our faith. In the must difficult circumstances the sons and daughters must make great sacrifices to do the Father’s will, just as Christ did for us.
As we celebrate the feast of the Baptism of the Lord and prepare to begin Ordinary Time let us ask our Lord to show us how we can profoundly rediscover our own identity as “beloved” sons and daughters of God and commit ourselves to participate in the mission of Christ by actively seeking to actively participate in the New Evangelization.