You may have been privileged, as I have, to watch a young dove or swallow spread its wings and leave the nest for the first time. Flight is natural for the young fledgling, and it is soon soaring with the rest of the flock, ready to take its place in the avian world.
As the birds are made to fly, each of us is made to know God, to love Him, and to serve Him. We are born with an innate desire for God, which may be fostered or frustrated as the years go by. If, with the aid of His grace, we are able to respond to God's love, we will be with Him in Heaven for all eternity. If we fail to respond we are without God, without love, forever. We must do what is necessary for salvation, praying for the grace of final perseverance.
Unlike the birds, we are unable to attain the end for which we were created without God's special help, "as all have sinned and have need of the glory of God" (Rom.3:23). It is for this reason that God reveals His love for us through His Son, Jesus Christ, a love aptly symbolized the His Sacred Heart, and makes it possible for us to attain that love through obedience to His plan of salvation for all men.
In order to attain our end we need to hear the "good news", the Gospel, that saving word from God by which "he who believes and is baptized shall be saved" (Mk.16:16). It is the mission of the Church to preach the Gospel, to evangelize the nations, baptizing them "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." Thus they will have their "wings" by which they can fly to God. Without these "wings" they are forever earthbound, unable to attain their supernatural destiny.
What sadness to see so many millions, even billions, of human beings who may never attain life's goal, who may never see the face of God, held in bondage by the false religions because the Church fails to preach the need to believe in Jesus Christ, to repent, and be baptized.
Not that we don't hear enough about the New Evangelization. An academic review, Euntes Docete, recently dedicated an issue to John Paul II, saying "it is not possible to understand his pontificate unless we see evangelization as the foundation of his ministry" (Zenit.org, June 9, 2004). But the Ecumenical outreach of today's "church" empties evangelization of its meaning. It has come to mean a pat on the back, an ecumenical encounter which makes few demands upon unbelievers. Because of a false "respect" for men of "good will", which means practically everybody, the Gospel of repentance is not preached to them.
There is more to evangelization than telling people that we love them, that the Church loves them, the pope loves them, or even that Jesus loves them. What's missing is the rest of the message - that they must repent of their sins and be baptized. People don't mind hearing that Jesus loves them, but if they are not asked to respond in faith and seek baptism, Jews will remain Jews, Muslims will remain Muslims, Hindus will remain Hindus, etc. If we are all going to Heaven in the end, then why change?
The very word "evangelization" comes from the Latin "evangelium", meaning the "good news", or the "Gospel", which proclaims Jesus Christ to the world as the Savior in Whom all must believe. The Church must be as clear and direct as Jesus Himself, when He first began to preach, as we read in the Gospel of St. Mark: "After John had been delivered up, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, 'The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the gospel'" (Mk.1:14,15).
The first pope, St. Peter, was not less direct as he preached to the Jews at the first Pentecost: "'Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For to you is the promise and to your children and to all who are far off, even to all whom the Lord our God calls to himself.' And with very many other words he bore witness, and exhorted them, saying, 'Save yourselves from this perverse generation'" (Acts2:38-40).
And what of ourselves, who today must save ourselves from an equally perverse generation? We have no less a need to repent of our sins, and to pray earnestly for salvation. St. Alphonsus Liguori, who has said, "If you pray, you will be certainly saved; if you do not pray, you will be certainly damned," provides us with:
A Prayer to Obtain Final Perseverance
Father, I humbly adore Thee, and thank Thee for having created me, and for having redeemed me through Jesus Christ. I thank Thee most sincerely for having made me a Christian, by giving me the true faith, and by adopting me as Thy son, in the sacrament of baptism. I thank Thee for having, after the numberless sins I had committed, waited for my repentance, and for having pardoned (as I humbly hope) all the offences which I have offered to Thee, and for which I am now sincerely sorry, because they have been displeasing to Thee, who art infinite goodness. I thank Thee for having preserved me from so many relapses, of which I would have been guilty if Thou hadst not protected me. But my enemies still continue, and will continue till death, to combat against me, and to endeavor to make me their slave. If Thou dost not constantly guard and succor me with thy aid, I, a miserable creature, shall return to sin, and shall certainly lose Thy grace. I beseech Thee, then, for the love of Jesus Christ, to grant me holy perseverance unto death. Jesus, Thy Son, has promised that Thou wilt grant whatsoever we ask in his name. Through the merits, then, of Jesus Christ, I beg, for myself and for all the just, the grace never again to be separated from Thy love, but to love Thee forever, in time and eternity. Mary, Mother of God, pray to Jesus for me. Amen." (yenra.com).
"I say to you: there is joy among the angels of God over one sinner who repents" (Lk. 15:10).