Having completed the Year of Faith, it seems that the Church has now embraced the call for a New Evangelization. Such an initiative is welcome and long overdue. But even as the New Evangelization initiative is being proclaimed, it seems that forces allied with the secularist Culture of Desecration and Death are already at
work seeking to hijack this noble endeavor.
Specifically, it is worth noting that the spirit guiding much of the promotion of the New Evangelization is permeated with a certain hubris, which is analogous to a
high school pep rally. Although this may, in the short run, pump up the level of enthusiasm among the faithful, it cannot be a reliable basis for any long term commitment. Instead, what is needed is a spirit of humility, whereby souls can become more hospitable to that true docility to the Holy Spirit, which St. Paul refers to as the obedience of faith (Rom 1:5, 16:26). Without complete docility to the whole truth of God's Word, holistic salvation is impossible.
Likewise, as the New Evangelization seeks to make the Church more welcoming to sinners, we need to stress the importance of ongoing repentance in the spiritual life. While it is good to stress the profound depths of God's mercy for all humanity, it is important that we avoid approaching this mystery in a spirit of presumption, as if it were some type of government entitlement program. Rather, the saving gracious mercy of God can only transform those who are willing to approach this mystery in a spirit of profoundly reverent and grateful repentance. After all, only by repentance can humanity come to realize its awesome dignity as God's own image and likeness. Repentance is a tangible affirmation that we have been given a dignity that far surpasses that which is allegedly realized through fulfilling the mundane demands of mere survival and of addictive compulsions.
This leads to another danger. The secular world is making not-so-subtle efforts to hijack the New Evangelization by portraying it as the New Capitulation. It refuses to
accept this initiative as a call to a greater fidelity to the eternal salvific and sanctifying truth of Christ. And it is loath to accept an understanding of freedom based on fidelity
and accountability to objective truth and to one's commitments. Rather, it seeks to redefine freedom in terms of a fickleness, which embraces the ongoing evolution of
moral standards regularly adapted to the demands of expediency and convenience.
By selectively using the mantra, "Who are we to judge?", it decries any attempt to bring the light of objective truth on any of a number of its politically correct agendas. And by introducing the disorienting power of euphemisms, it seeks to have people view certain co-dependent behaviors as "compassion". In a similar way, the secularist agenda is promoting a perspective that salvation is not to be realized in the context of God's mercy and the regenerative gracious ministry of the Holy Spirit.
Rather, it asserts salvation is to be realized by the creation and promulgation of new excuses for objectively sinful behaviors - especially in the way society approaches the sacredness of human life, of the human person, of holy marriage and of human sexuality. It is thus alleged that, as the spirit of an amoral "tolerance" is used to promote an acceptance of perverse perspectives and behaviors, humanity can be saved from the spiritual plagues of compunction and guilt. We see this hijacked view of the New Evangelization already having its impact in the Church, as millions have been led to trivialize the seriousness of their objectively grave sins to the point of sacrilegiously abusing the Precious Body and Blood of Christ to ratify the agendas of their sin-seared consciences.
The New Evangelization has also been perverted by the tendency to view salvation as individualistic - and even as alienated from others. This monadic understanding of
salvation is based on a not-so-subtle denial of the covenantal nature of humanity. It seeks to glorify a deceptive sense of self-fulfillment, which is based largely not on reverencing the sacredness of each person, but rather on using them to suit one's agendas. Divine Revelation, however, points out that salvation is never realized in
alienation from others. Although it is profoundly sacred and personal, it can never be alienated from the salvation of others. As a matter of fact, one key indicator as to how authentic one's salvation truly is can be found in one's zeal to share the mercy, truth and love of Christ with others. God's gracious mercy is never static. Rather it is
always dynamic, reconciling and regenerative. Thus it is that none of us really can possess salvation.
Instead, we share in salvation to the degree that we share in the wisdom, mystery and ministry of Jesus Christ. And thus it is that we find the gift of salvation coming to fruition not merely in a symbiotic gathering of Christians, but in the Church, the organically united covenantal community of those reverently receptive to participating in the whole mystery and ministry of Christ Jesus. In conclusion, we should note that the price of liberty is eternal vigilance, especially in the spiritual life. The Father of Lies and his minions will not stand by passively, if a serious effort is being made to bring souls to repentance and new life.
Thus any true evangelization will also require a willingness to enter into a new martyrdom. And the persecution will come from our own inner doubts (e.g., "Am I really to take this teaching THAT seriously?), from leaders in the Church (e.g., "You will create a major scandal if you bring this case of sexual abuse before the courts!"), from others in the Church (e.g., "Don't get fixated on a single issue - look at the larger problems of the world!"), and from those outside the Church (e.g., "God loves each of us as we are, so there is no need to evangelize. Just accept each person as he/she is!"). Thus it is that the New Evangelization cannot be realized by the Church Milquetoast, but only by the Church Militant, convicted by the Holy Spirit to courageously respect the whole truth of God. And that will require a lot of repentance on the part of all of us, since we have become so acclimated to tolerating the second-hand heresy that permeates even the air we breathe each day.
May God, Who has begun this good work in us, bring it to eternal fruition in Christ Jesus, Our Savior and Lord!
Rev. Thomas Collins is a Catholic priest who serves the people of Virginia.