Sunday, October 21, 2012
To Know is to Love
We are now 11 days into the Year of Faith. When our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, proclaimed this privileged time of grace and renewal for the Church, he charged all of us with the task of doing what we could to bring about the New Evangelization. It was as though he renewed the same call that he issued in Scotland back in 2010, when he invited the laity to be collaborators with him and the bishops. It also reminds us that his own episcopal motto reads, "Co-workers in the Truth."
Many dioceses have already embraced the Year of Faith. One bishop, the Most Rev. Alex Sample of the Diocese of Marquette, Michigan, traveled to four points in his See, staking out the entire area under the Sign of the Cross. As he proclaimed in his Twitter post, "This land belongs to Jesus Christ." This is certainly a bold and visible manifestation of what the Year of Faith means. It also reminds us of our own call as Christians. When we were baptized, the first thing that the priest (or, in some cases, the deacon-if he was the one administering the Sacrament) did was to trace the Sign of the Cross on our foreheads, claiming us for Christ. He then invited our parents and godparents to do the same. After our baptism, the celebrant anointed us with the oil of salvation, charging us to be priests, prophets and kings. Just as the unborn John the Baptist leapt for joy in the presence of the unborn Christ, making his first proclamation in the womb that salvation was close at hand, so, we, too, even as infants, were charged with bearing prophetic witness to the Lord.
As magnificent as Bishop Sample's bold proclamation of the Faith was, he, the Holy Father and our own bishops cannot undertake this New Evangelization by themselves. They need our cooperation. Although the Holy Father has the means of television, radio and the internet at his disposal to relay the Church's message, he cannot be at all places at all times. We, too, need to spread the Good News. We, too, need to sow the seeds of faith in our homes, in our workplaces and in our community.
But, how do we go about doing this? Before we can go and evangelize, we need to learn about our Faith. Before we can talk about Jesus and His Church, we need to know Him and the Church. Knowing Someone and knowing about that Someone are two very different things. In the Bible, when the word "knowing" is used, it bears an intimate context, often associated with marital love. In the Gospels and in the Book of Revelation, Jesus reveals Himself as the Bridegroom. He does not merely know about us; he KNOWS us. He wants to have a deep relationship with us. Satan and his legion know ABOUT Jesus. Whenever Christ was about to expel a demon, the creature knew ABOUT Jesus, calling Him by name; it did not, however, KNOW Jesus. Thus, we cannot simply get by with merely knowing about Christ and His Church.
To this end, the Church, as our spiritual Mother, gives us the means to help us know her and her Divine Spouse. She breathes with two lungs, Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. Sacred Tradition was handed down to us through the centuries from the hands of the Apostles. She also hands down to us her most precious and valuable form of prayer, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. While it is the Church's supreme form of public prayer, it is also one of her most intimate, as we return to that moment when Christ hands himself to us, for us men and for our salvation. We then receive from the Altar His own glorified Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity. He comes to embrace us and to be one with us. Any aspect of the New Evangelization needs to have this Eucharistic element. Because, as rightly stated by Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the "source and summit" of our life as the Church, what we do must flow from this supreme prayer. If we get this wrong, then our efforts lose their meaning.
Before we can go and boldly proclaim our Faith, we must first learn it, love it and live it.