November 22, 2013

The conclusion of the Year of Faith

By Bishop James D. Conley *

On Sunday, November 24th, Pope Francis will conclude what Pope Benedict XVI began. With a Mass celebrating the Solemnity of Christ the King in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis will call to a close the Church’s Year of Faith.

The Holy Father will end the Year of Faith with an invitation, and with a reminder. He will invite all Catholics to be disciples of Jesus Christ, and he will remind them that Christ’s disciples must always be evangelists.

Last week, Pope Francis sent a message to dozens of North and South American bishops, meeting in Mexico City to discuss the new evangelization. "You have been converted into disciples of the Lord," he told them. "And every disciple is at the same time a missionary."

We’re made for Christ, who is the answer to every human question. And we’re graced, daily, with opportunities to become his disciples. We become disciples in baptism, and confirmation, and in the Eucharist. We become disciples through ordination, or marriage, or religious consecration. We become disciples when we teach our children the faith, when we study Scripture together, when we pray together, when we worship together, when we love one another and when we forgive one another.

Disciples know and love Jesus Christ. Knowing Christ is knowing the meaning of our own existence—knowing that we’re made for life-giving love. We’re made to go beyond ourselves. We’re Christians, and therefore missionaries. Our mission is simple: we’re to bring Jesus Christ to those who suffer without his love, his mercy, and without his peace.

As the Year of Faith ends, all of us must ask whether we really are missionaries—whether we preach Christ, crucified and resurrected, to the world. Last week, Pope Francis said that to serve Christ "we must dare to leave our own communities and travel to the existential peripheries that need to feel God’s closeness."

It is easy to spend time among those who wish to be disciples of Christ. To become complacent in patterns of Catholic culture and life which can be comforting, but exclusionary. It’s easier, for all of us, to spend our time with those who think as we do, and act as we do.

It is much more difficult to leave the comfortable, the familiar, and the ordinary to pursue the periphery. We’re scared, sometimes. And Satan convinces us that we can preach the Gospel without ever mentioning Jesus Christ. We hope that our piety, or our smile, or our kind word, will point to Jesus Christ by itself.

Christians should always be kind. But the truth is that we cannot preach the Gospel without proclaiming Jesus Christ by name.

Only our decisions—to enter relationships with those who need Christ, and to point them to him—will call others to conversion.

Pope Francis told us last week that, "the treasure of faith is not for personal use. It is to be given, to be spread, and thus it will grow. Make known the name of Jesus."

To be disciples is to make known the name of Jesus. Let all of us make him known throughout the world.

The Most Rev. James D. Conley served as the auxiliary Bishop for the Denver Archdiocese from April of 2008 until November of 2012, and during this time also served as Apostolic Administrator for Denver from September 2011 until July 2012. Bishop Conley is currently the Bishop of the Lincoln diocese.

* Catholic News Agency columns are opinion and do not necessarily express the perspective of the agency.


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