.- The New Evangelization calls Christians to go fearlessly into the heart of culture and invite people to come to know and love Christ, said Archbishop Jose Gomez of San Antonio.
Speaking at the Tenth Anniversary Conference of New Evangelization of America, the archbishop underlined of the Christian heritage of the Americas and addressed the current cultural obstacles to coherent Christian living.
During the Feb. 4 event, the archbishop noted that San Antonio is celebrating the 275th anniversary of its San Fernando Cathedral. He recounted that the diocese got its name because Mass was first celebrated in the city on the Feast of St. Anthony in 1691, but that evangelization in the Americas began at least 100 years before that.
“From their earliest settlement, these lands were Catholic, Christian. And these lands were, from the start, immigrant lands, meeting places of cultures,” he said. “Long before America had a name, the Gospel was being preached in these lands and the Holy Mass was being celebrated. Jesus Christ was here first -- in Word and sacrament -- changing lives and destinies, sowing the seeds of a civilization of love.”
He said Americans do not reflect upon this truth enough, and he believes that the New Evangelization requires U.S. Catholics “to develop a very clear understanding of who we are and where come from.”
He reiterated the words of Pope John Paul in saying that the biggest obstacles to the New Evangelization are cultural.
“The culture of consumerism is not a culture worthy of the great dignity of the human person created in the image and likeness of God,” he said. “The human person is far more than the sum of what he buys and sells, or the size of his house, or the kinds of music he downloads to his iPod.”
The archbishop also warned against materialism, practical atheism and its hostility toward religion and a “new nativism” that replaces cultural and ethnic identities with “lifestyle” choices and consumer models.
The New Evangelization calls Christians to “go fearlessly into the heart of our culture, into the heart of our people's lives, bringing the Gospel into their homes, into all their many occupations, into their schools and into their arts and sciences, into the media and into the political arena,” the prelate said.
“The New Evangelization means we must inspire people to seek Christ in everything they do, to seek to be his friend, to seek to love him, and to glorify him,” he said. The arts, media and ordinary work must point to the mystery of God. It also involves helping people to discover their vocation.
Gomez said the faith of Catholics has been eroded by consumerism and secularism and there must be new efforts in faith education. The areas of focus must be the identity of Christ and the identity of the Church, he said.
“Too often Jesus is treated as if he was just a historical figure, a holy man perhaps but not the Son of God. And there is also a bad tendency to treat the Church as only an old institution, guided by human prejudice and weakness,” he said.
The archbishop said the New Evangelization would be possible if Christians begin by rooting their lives and everything they do the Scripture, prayer, and the Eucharist.
“No one will believe us if we're not true believers ourselves,” he concluded.