The Urgency and Joy of the Good News

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At the beginning of this month, over twenty members of the Diocese of Arlington and I gathered in Orlando, Florida, for the Joy of the Gospel Convocation, a conference on evangelization organized by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. In total, over 3,000 leaders and nearly 200 Bishops who attended experienced what the Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Christophe Pierre, who is Pope Francis’ ambassador to the United States, called a “unique event and moment…a new Catholic moment, a privileged time to be renewed for the mission of evangelization in this country.”

Reflecting on what we experienced at the Orlando Convocation, there are three themes that strike me as particularly noteworthy: the urgency of spreading the Gospel today, the influence of the pastoral view of Pope Francis, and finally, the joy the evangelist brings to the world.

First, the urgency of the Gospel and our permanent state of mission was clearly proclaimed. After the Incarnation of Jesus Christ at the Visitation, Mary, the Mother of God “went in haste” to share the Good News (Lk 1:39). At the invitation of Jesus, the Apostles “immediately” left their nets to follow Him (Mt 4:20). As missionary disciples called to teach and live the truth, we should do likewise. In my conversations during my time in Orlando, I heard over and over that the Convocation brought home this sense of immediacy.

This urgency is also supported by the need for evangelization in our culture today. There is a widespread spiritual hunger in our communities, our families and even our own parishes. Nearly 25 percent of Americans identify themselves as having no faith or religious affiliation. In our nation and our world we can identify various threats against the sacredness of life, the dignity of the person, religious freedom and the fundamental importance of family. Such issues were discussed at the Convocation, as well as the appropriate responses and actions we need to take as faithful disciples.

Second, Archbishop Pierre invited the attendees of the convocation to “think with the Pope” and reflect on his well-known pastoral emphases: accompanying others, showing mercy, being missionaries to those in the peripheries and respectfully listening to others. During our time together, Bishops, priests, deacons, religious, and lay leaders not only shared their thoughts on evangelization, but more importantly everyone listened to one another, whether at a workshop, a conference, or even over coffee. The Convocation reflected the vision Pope Francis has for drawing the Church, from the hierarchy to the laity, into meaningful dialogue for the benefit of all.

Finally, throughout my whole experience in Orlando, I could clearly see the joy that comes from sharing the truth of the Gospel. As disciples of Christ, we have the privilege of being light in the darkness and pointing others to the beauty of life with Jesus Christ. In his closing remarks, Archbishop Pierre reminded us, “How happy are the feet of those who bring Good News” (Rm. 10:15), and emboldened us to share the Gospel “with joy,…with boldness, with audacity, as children of light.” Bishop Robert Barron, a keynote speaker and an Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, expressed the joy at the heart of the evangelist when he exclaimed to all of us, “It’s an exciting time to be an evangelist!” Indeed, it is!

My brothers and sisters, the message of the Convocation is a call for all Catholics to live with the urgency and audacity of Christian disciples, eager to encounter those who are spiritually hungry so we may share the Good News with those who so desperately need it. Jesus Christ, Our Savior, came that we might all have life to the fullest. May we joyfully respond to this message by the witness of our own lives, and our eagerness to share the Gospel with those we encounter.

See the videos

Videos of the Convocation keynotes and times of worship are available at usccb.org.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2017