Leave the ‘Catholic ghetto’ and be an Apostle, Archbishop Chaput challenges

Sydney, Australia, Jul 18, 2008 / 12:04 am (CNA) .- Young people gathered on Friday morning to hear Archbishop Charles Chaput speak on the Holy Spirit and the duty of Christians to be missionaries received a challenge to not live in a ‘Catholic ghetto.’

Beginning his teaching with the question, “How many of you think of yourselves as a spiritual father or spiritual mother?” Archbishop Chaput said that the problem is, “Some Catholics, even young people like yourselves, live in a kind of a “Catholic ghetto.”

At the root of this behavior, the archbishop found two causes: “First, there are those Catholics who feel ‘almost ready’ to evangelize” and “then there are those who claim that they’re not ‘people persons’.” 

For those who think they aren’t prepared enough to evangelize, Chaput pointed to God’s words of correction to the prophet Jeremiah who said he was ‘too young’ to prophesy. Those who find witnessing to Christ uncomfortable must contend with St. Paul’s Second Letter to Timothy in which he says, “Proclaim the word; be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient.”

There are numerous excuses for not evangelizing, the archbishop said, but the heart of the matter is that all Christians are called to be Apostles.  

What does it mean to be an Apostle?

According to Archbishop Chaput, being an apostle “actually means something closer to a ‘delegate’… a delegate of Christ…not someone who speaks about a particular doctrine or delivers a message, but someone who gives testimony of something he or she has experienced.”

“The nature of the Apostles' mission is powerfully explained in Chapter 10 of the Gospel of Matthew.  I urge you to re-read that Gospel passage and make it the basis of an honest examination of conscience,” he told his audience.

The Archbishop of Denver then went on to highlight the characteristics of an Apostle found in Matthew 10.

“First, the Apostle is aware that his mission has been entrusted to him by Jesus Himself. …Second, the Apostle is called to trust in God without preconditions, and especially without placing his trust in structures or methods. …Third, hardships and even persecution come with ‘the territory’ of being an Apostle. … Fourth, in this passage from Matthew, Jesus says that He will not fail in being with us to protect us … and Fifth:  Jesus calls us to be very vocal, brave and explicit when we announce the Gospel; He also reminds us that we can't betray or hide the Gospel's radical demands.” 

Overcoming the challenges of Apostleship

As he described each of the traits, the archbishop shared some of his own experience with the youth and clarified some misconceptions that people often have.

On the of topic trust without preconditions, he said, “Of course, good methods and structures can be helpful.  What Jesus tells us is that we should not place our confidence primarily in them, but in the person of Jesus Christ.”

Addressing hardships and persecutions he observed, “We live in a world that sees suffering as a curse to be avoided at any price.  But remember Jesus' warning that hardships, rejection and persecution by the world can’t be avoided. …You and I should feel encouraged, not defeated, by the trials that inevitably come our way.”

Thinking about his 38 years of ministry as a priest, the archbishop had this to say about Jesus never abandons his children: “I can assure you that Jesus never fails; He never fails.”

Archbishop Chaput spent the most time reflecting on the need to be brave in announcing the Gospel without hiding its demands. Matthew 10 shows us, he explained to the young people, “that the worst enemy of the Apostle is fear.  In fact, fear is one of the most underrated but most lethal dangers of our time, especially for your generation.”

“Pope John Paul was a visionary, chosen by the Holy Spirit to respond to the particular challenges of our day. And one of those great challenges, all over our world, but especially inside our Church and among our young people, is a fear of offending the world.”

Precisely because he was a visionary, Pope John Paul II was able to provide us the antidote to the paralyzing disease of fear: “Open wide the doors to Christ!” Archbishop Chaput instructed. If Christians follow this advice, they will be transformed by the Holy Spirit as the Apostles were. It’s only our fear that prevents God from unleashing all his power in our lives, he said. 

“Being ‘unafraid’ does not mean pretending not to fear. Being brave means overcoming our fear with the strength of the Holy Spirit, just as St. Paul and all the great Christian missionaries did, because proclaiming the truth of Jesus Christ is worth any cost,” the American archbishop explained to the WYD pilgrims.

After calling on the young Catholics to seek out the gift of courage or Fortitude from the Holy Spirit, the archbishop also emphasized the need for formation to meet the challenges presented by modern society. 

Reminding the pilgrims of Pope John Paul II’s motto, “Do Not Be Afraid,” Chaput offered a brief reflection on the late Pope’s last words, spoken on his death bed: "I have searched for you, and now you have come to me, and I thank you." 

These words, the archbishop recalled, were spoken “to the multitude, especially young people, gathered in St. Peter's Square at the news of his final hours. At the very end of his life, after traveling the world in search of all his flock, especially his lost sheep, the flock was coming to him. What an extraordinary way to meet the end of your life.  Reflect on the way you’d like to greet your own death, so that you’ll make the right choices in living your own life honestly and fully in the friendship of God,” he challenged the youth.

“I pray with all my heart that the Holy Spirit will awaken and unleash in you his joy and power, so that you may go out from this World Youth Day renewed, strengthened and encouraged to become apostles of Jesus Christ.”