Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of Denver gave a talk at the Legatus Conference on Thursday in Colorado Springs. He addressed the organization of Catholic business leaders and challenged them to reclaim the Catholic Mission.
The organization of Catholic businessmen, which takes its name from the Latin word for “ambassador”, hosted their fall summit September 20-22nd in Colorado Springs and offers a network of support for Catholics who influence the business world and are able to combine their faith with their work, families, friends and colleagues.
The archbishop began his talk by explaining how the foundation of Catholicism, the Bible not only aims to make people wise, but it seeks to lead them to salvation. The books of other great world religions are essentially wisdom literature. Their goal is to help believers obtain happiness, but does not show them the true history of our world and where we are headed.
Archbishop Chaput began with the first book of the Old Testament, Genesis, “The first words are: “In the beginning . . . ” The Bible begins with a step-by-step report of the first day in the history of the world. The entire Old Testament is like that. After telling us about the first man and woman and their descendants, it proceeds to present a historical account of God’s chosen people, the children of Israel. The biblical narratives are filled with dates and geography, even the names of foreign rulers.”
He explained how the New Testament is a continuation of that history. “It focuses on one particular child of Israel, Jesus of Nazareth, and the community he founded, the Church. The story is told with lots of references -- some direct, others subtle -- to that earlier history. Jesus is portrayed as fulfilling all that God promised in the Old Testament. The Church is described as the new people of God, the final realization of Israel’s calling to be God’s light to the nations.”
The archbishop said, “[t]hat’s my first point today. To be a Catholic is to be very unique among the world’s believers. To be a Catholic means believing that you are a part of a vast historical project. And it’s not our project. It’s God’s. Being Catholic means believing that since the beginning of time God has been working out his own hidden purposes in the history of nations and in the biography of every person. He’s still unfolding his purposes today, and each of us has a part to play in his divine plan.”
“He chose us before the foundation of the world, to be holy. In love, he destined us for adoption to himself through Jesus Christ.” St. Paul wrote those words to the first Christians. But he meant them for us, too. He created us out of love. He made us for a reason: to be holy, to be his sons and daughters through Jesus Christ; to help him in his plan to share his love with the whole world.
“In his first homily as pope, Benedict XVI said the same thing. He said: ‘We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution. Each of us is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary.’ This is a vital truth. Every one of us is the result of an act of the creative imagination of God.”
Archbishop Chaput continued with his second point. “As Catholic laypeople, you have an ‘ecclesial’ being and identity. You’re leaders by virtue of your vocation as parents and executives, and the Church is where you belong. It’s where God has called you to be. In the Church you will find God’s will for your life.
St. Maximilian Kolbe said that “Every man and woman in this world is assigned a mission by God.”
Archbishop Chaput made sure that the assembled business leaders really appreciated the weight of this belief saying, “that’s true. It’s the teaching of the apostles, popes and saints. But can we really believe it? Do you really believe that God has a mission, some special task that he has given you -- and only you -- to carry out in this world? Do you really believe that you are necessary to God’s plan for human history?”
Our divine mission is the same as St. Maximilian Kolbe’s in the Nazi concentration camp, “to love as Jesus loved, in all of the unique circumstances of our individual lives. And by our love, to spread the love of God to the ends of the earth.”
It is important to realize that we are called to be missionaries – not necessarily like Matteo Ricci who evangelized China in the 16th century or more recently, Mother Teresa who served the poorest of the poor in India, God is calling us to be missionaries in our homes, our neighborhoods and workplaces.
In our world today, it is necessary that we evangelize our world because it’s operating as if it has “no need for God.”
How are we going to evangelize? The archbishop suggests an answer straight from history.
We need to look at the early Church, “how did a handful of very ordinary men and women, disciples of an obscure man executed as a criminal, wind up changing the world -- conquering an empire and founding a whole new civilization on the cornerstone of that executed man’s life and teachings? And they did it in just a few centuries, without armies, and usually in face of discrimination and persecution.”
A leading sociologist set out to prove that the Church did not succeed because it was God’s will for the world. He studied the “material, historical, and sociological ‘reasons’ for Christianity’s ‘success.’”
The archbishop asked, “do you know what he concluded? He found that the Church conquered the empire by the force of her beliefs and teachings. The Church prevailed because people practiced what the Church preached. It was that simple. People lived out their faith. And that living out of their faith had revolutionary consequences.” The love of the early Christians enabled the faith to spread out to all regions of the world.
Archbishop Chaput’s final point was that “Christian love is not weak or anesthetic. It’s an act of the will. It takes courage. It’s a deliberate submission of our selfishness to the needs of others. And there’s nothing – and I mean nothing – more demanding and rewarding in the world. That’s your vocation. That’s what being a Christian means. We are not powerless in the face of today’s unbelieving civilization. We can turn this world upside down if only we’re willing to love – the kind of active Christian love that is vastly more powerful than just a sugary feeling; the kind of love that converts men and women into something entirely new; the kind of love that bears fruit in zeal, courage, justice, mercy and apostolic action.”
“So I leave you with this: Be men and women who love well. Be the adult Catholic leaders God intended you to be. Be people of courage and fidelity to your God, your spouses, your families and your Church. Put your belief into practice. Do everything for the glory of God, even the little things you have to do each day. Love those who don’t love you. Love -- expecting nothing in return. Love -- and those you love will find Jesus, too. Love -- and through your actions, God will change this world.”