Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
P.O. Box 1453, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302
The Proclamation of the Gospel: Bishop Skylstad's Third Reflection in a Five Part Series on ‘The Joy of the Gospel’
by Bishop William S. Skylstad, for the Inland Register
(From the July 17, 2014 edition of the Inland Register)
The apostolic exhortation The Joy of the Gospel (“Evangelii Gaudium”) is Pope Francis’s truly remarkable response to the Synod on the New Evangelization. In the first two chapters he reflects on the missionary spirit and the challenge of fostering community. In the third chapter he talks about the foundationally quality of the words of Sacred Scripture in our personal lives and in the life of the Church.
He begins by focusing on the personal and communal aspect of that challenge. We are individuals who make up the Church, and the task of the Church is that the entire people of God proclaims the Gospel. God calls us as a people, not only as individuals. As we reflect on that reality alone, there is strength in numbers. The Church can and should be seen as sacrament of salvation offered by God.
That salvation through Jesus our Redeemer which the Church joyfully accepts and proclaims is for everyone. Wonderfully, God has found a way to make himself present to every human being in every age. God has called us together as a people, not as isolated individuals. As a people, we together make up the Church. No one is individually saved by himself or herself. As Jesus calls us to “Go and make disciples of all nations” (Mt 28:19), we go as the people of God, the Church.
The Church is made up of many faces and cultures. Different cultures provide the opportunity of expressing the rich reality of proclaiming the message of salvation in many different ways, always keeping Jesus as the center of the focus and proclamation. Different cultures are not a threat to Christian unity – on the contrary, they bring forth the rich variety of gifts that contribute to the integral whole of the message of salvation in the Lord Jesus. In addition, Pope Francis says “no single culture can exhaust the mystery of our redemption in Christ” (#118).
In appreciation of that reality, all of us are missionary disciples of Jesus. We are baptized into the Lord Jesus and that reality of our being baptized bonds us together in the common mission of evangelization. It does not matter how we are members of the Church; all of us work together on common mission. In that work and service, we are constantly in the process of evangelizing one another. The fact that all of us are imperfect people is no excuse for not leaning eagerly and joyfully into the task. St. Paul is an excellent example of how imperfection lived provides a constant opportunity for growth and renewal of heart.
Popular piety can also play an important role of demonstrating how this manner of holiness can express a spontaneous missionary activity of the people of God. As Pope Paul VI pointed out in his Evangelii Nuntiandi, this piety often can “manifest a thirst and love for God which only the poor can know.” Such qualities can sometimes lead to heroism in the living out of one’s faith. We should not underestimate the power of such piety in the challenge of the new evangelization.
Pope Francis reminds us that our personal witness is always important. Personal conversation, dialogue, witness, and attitudes are all valuable contributions to the evangelizing effort. We must simply not allow ourselves to be bystanders, onlookers, or overly fearful. Any behavior to the contrary contributes to the stagnation of the Church. Each of us has unique and different gifts as well as occupations that can enhance the life of the Church and her place in the world.
In this chapter, the Holy Father spends considerable time on the important need to preach the word of God effectively. In his own personal example, he has given great witness. The homilist can set hearts on fire. This important work must not be approached casually or without preparation. Preparation, listening, reading, and awareness are all qualities of an effective proclaimer. We live in an era of tremendous amount of communication, and we must never slacken off on our efforts to do this work eminently well.
As we address the proclamation of the word, we must be aware of our continuing need for growth and maturation. “All of us need to grow in Christ” (#160). This growth must not be seen only as doctrinal formation but must be addressed in the wider context of our spirituality and integration of our relationship with Jesus into our personal lives. St. Paul reminds us that the Christian journey involves growth in the love of the Lord and one another.
We accompany one another in this process of growth. That accompaniment is a wonderful gift as together we go forth proclaiming and living the Gospel.
(Bishop Skylstad is Bishop Emeritus of the Spokane Diocese.)
© The Catholic Diocese of Spokane. All Rights Reserved