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Sunday, December 18, 2011
AMERICA : USA : CARDINAL : JESUS THE PERFECT GIFT
ARCHDIOCESE OF WASHINGTON RELEASE: Dear
Perhaps you have seen
some of the yard signs, Facebook and newspaper ads, or television commercials or
heard radio announcements calling us to “Find the Perfect Gift / Regalo Perfecto.” These are visible reminders about the
meaning of Christmas and an invitation to those who may have forgotten or never
quite knew what Christmas is all about. These colorful signs are part of a much
larger Church-wide effort to share the Good News with those who may have drifted away.
The overall effort is called the New Evangelization.
Our Holy Father, Pope
Benedict XVI, has described the New Evangelization as an invitation to share the Good News
that is Jesus, the Son of God. Like the angels who announced the birth of our
Savior to the shepherds in the fields, we, too, are called to tell others of
God’s redeeming love, mercy and peace, given to us in the form of a holy child
of humble birth.
Even as we are putting
up Christmas trees, hanging out wreaths and placing Nativity scenes in our
homes, parochial schools and churches, there is clearly in our society in recent
years an effort to reduce this season to simply a winter festival, a generic
holiday, a retail/commercial bonanza. What began as a recognition of the birth
of Christ is now being disconnected from the Gospel proclamation that God sent
his Son Jesus among us.
Too often do we hear in
the entertainment/information industry that this is really the post-Christian,
post-faith era. One might be tempted to accept this thesis if one judged by the
indicators of commercial interest.
Yet, in reality — in
the world where you and I live — in the world of our values, convictions and
hopes — there is another perspective. We see, even if only dimly, with the eyes
of faith. In this light, we see the story of the birth of Christ not as a myth,
not as unreliable history, not as an outdated influence from the past. We
recognize him for who he is — the Word of God who became one of us and, as the
creed professes, died, rose and will come again in glory.
When asked “What is the
New Evangelization?” I think one response includes three elements: a) renewing
our own understanding of the faith, b) restoring a confidence in what we
believe, and c) being willing to share our gift of faith.
If each one of us were
to commit to sharing this gift with one person this Christmas, or reminding them
of it, lives might be changed in profound ways. It could be something as simple
as inviting a friend to attend Mass or a Christmas concert with
you. Or, perhaps you might feel more comfortable suggesting an act of charity you could undertake together. Regardless of the event
or occasion, your invitation might be the very reason your friend or loved one
has been waiting for to come back to the Church or to explore it for the first
time. This feast day of Saint Nicholas seems such an appropriate time to think about offering the gift of
Christ during this holy season to someone we care about.
In trying to answer the
question “What does the New Evangelization have to do with Christmas?” we have
to ask ourselves, how prepared are we to share the Good News of Christmas and
perhaps even invite someone who should be with us to come back to Mass. Jesus
beckons us to walk with him. “Come, follow me” (Mt 5:19). The joy we
experience should compel us to share it with others. We are not only disciples,
we are evangelists. Like those first disciples, we are called to envision
ourselves walking alongside Jesus as the sower of the seeds of a new way of
living, of a share in a kingdom that will last forever (cf Mt 13:1-9, 18-23; Mk
4:3; Lk 8:5).
It’s not enough, though, for us simply to tell others
about the love and mercy of Christ. We are called to be a living example of all
he embodies, especially during this time of great economic difficulty for many
in our area. This local Church, through Catholic Charities and other entities, offers abundant
opportunities for us to serve our brothers and sisters in need — whether they
are struggling to feed and clothe their families, pay utility bills or find a place to sleep on a cold night. Volunteers, as well as
donations, are always needed. By serving others, particularly the poorest among
us, we serve Jesus himself: “…I assure you, as often as you did it for one of
my least brothers, you did for me” (Mt
In Seek First the Kingdom, I attempt to explain how we
all can share in the joy of realizing God’s kingdom in our daily lives. The
Advent and Christmas season is a time to remember more clearly and thank God
more sincerely for the perfect gift that is ours and for the grace to actually
make real in our lives what we ask for when we pray “Thy kingdom
With prayerful best
wishes for a joyous and peaceful Christmas for you and your family, I