April 29, 2011

Seeking the Face of the Lord

We all share in the mission of spreading the Good News

(Listen to the archbishop read this column)

(Editor’s note: While Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein continues to recover from a stroke, we offer some reprints of his various columns for your enrichment. The following column is from the April 1, 2005, issue of The Criterion.)

Easter is the ultimate celebration of life and a timely gift. The message of the Easter season has always been timely, but it can be treasured even more in our day.

Recently, Pope John Paul II wrote a letter to the bishops of France in which he spoke of an identity crisis that is affecting our modern society. It is a crisis of values and the lack of hope that can be observed particularly in Europe and in our own country as well.

Society is more and more dominated by secularism, a culture that intentionally seeks to isolate faith and religious values from “the real world.”

As this happens, societies tend to propose only one sort of life, a life founded on material well-being, which is unable to foster an understanding of the true meaning of life. Absent are the fundamental values that are needed to make the free and responsible choices that are a source of true joy and happiness.

If we have our eyes set on the meaning of life then we know that the goal is literally out of sight. Life as we know it is a pathway to the unseen Kingdom where every tear will be wiped away. We Christians walk this path by faith. We walk confidently with hope to our final goal because Jesus Christ has become the bridge from this earthly life to the Kingdom.

If we did not believe in the fullness of life after death, and if we did not believe that this gift has been won decisively for us by Jesus Christ, life would not be worth living.

As a pastor once remarked bluntly in a funeral homily, “If we did not believe in life after death, we would be no different than running dogs in the street.” Yet, a secular culture leaves society degraded because there is nothing to hope for beyond death.

Pope John Paul II quotes the Second Vatican Council: “One is entitled to think that the future of humanity is in the hands of those men who are capable of providing the generations to come with reasons for life and optimism” (Gaudium et Spes, #31). Generations of people have fostered religious, spiritual and moral values since the early centuries of Christianity.

On Easter Sunday, we Catholics renewed our Profession of Faith and recalled once more the decisive gift of our life—our baptism. At that decisive moment of baptism, we set out on the pathway which will lead us to the eventual passage to the Kingdom and immortality.

With baptism comes the responsibility to hand on the Good News of Jesus Christ and the teachings of the Church that offer hope to our world. This is our Christian mission. This responsibility is shared according to our particular roles in life.

Not only are our priests responsible for carrying on the Church’s mission to our society, parents are responsible for the Catholic upbringing of their children. Grandparents and godparents assist them.

Catechists and teachers also share the responsibility with parents who entrust their children to them for religious instruction and formation.

Priests, with the help of pastoral leaders, share the responsibility for spiritual direction, especially making the sacraments of the Church available. The sacraments of the Church empower and strengthen us for our shared mission.

Workers and professional people have a particular opportunity to infuse Christian spiritual and moral values in the workplace. Most often, this happens simply through the example of honestly living the Christian life according to the teaching of Christ and the Catholic Church. This requires a personal commitment to one’s faith because it implies witnessing with words and deeds, while intentionally living the Christian moral and spiritual virtues.

Not long ago, a faithful Catholic woman completed her baptismal mission and passed over to the Kingdom, where surely Jesus, Mary and Joseph received her.

Alma Worthington, an African-American, lived a long and not very easy life. She was a stalwart and faithful parishioner at St. Andrew the Apostle Parish on the near north side of Indianapolis. She was what I would call a natural evangelist of the faith.

She was who she was, and that meant, among other things, that she was a Roman Catholic woman. She was intent on doing her part to make sure her Church and her parish lived up to the tenets of our faith. In a respectful and straightforward way, she made sure that her archbishop did the same.

Alma was a good cook, and that was a gifted part of her identity. The table she set became a place of evangelization, whether in her home or elsewhere.

There, as elsewhere, her faith and her natural gifts coalesced in an unpretentious, winning way. I believe that is a good paradigm for our shared mission. †

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