I'm a Capuchin Franciscan, so I have a great love for simplicity. We need more of it in the world, and we also need more of it in the Church. Jesus was simple. Not simple as in ignorant; but simple as in focused. He spoke clearly and directly. He anchored Himself in the essentials of His Father's will. We need to do the same. This is the reason why the Mile Hi is so important. Whatever skills and tools and professional methods we learn here are valuable. But they're not finally the reason for this congress. This congress exists to renew our zeal as missionaries. In Catholic education, every teacher is a missionary. It follows that we can't be good teachers if we're not on fire for the truth we teach.
Back in December, I wrote a pastoral letter called "Good News of Great Joy." Those of you who read it know that this theme of mission and evangelization is really the heart of my concern as a bishop. Those of you who didn't read it, don't feel too bad. If you have trouble reading pastoral letters, I don't really enjoy writing them. In fact, I think most of the time, a good homily delivered from the heart is the best way to reach anyone with any message. But some things are important enough to spend more time thinking about and developing. Some issues really do need the breathing room of a pastoral letter -- and recovering our missionary energy, and our missionary realism, as a Church is one of them.
What do I mean by missionary realism? That's an odd term. Let me explain it this way. When I issue a pastoral letter about evangelization on Christmas Eve, it connects very comfortably with all the warm feelings of the Christmas season. And that's appropriate: Every birth is "good news of great joy." But the deeper joy of the Christian Gospel doesn't happen at Christmas. It happens on the other side of Golgotha. There's no resurrection without the crucifixion.
All of us love Christmas. That's the easy part of the message. There's much less consumer-demand for Good Friday. Yet the cross is the manner by which Christ accomplishes our redemption. And only in being nailed to the cross with Him, can we rise with Him on Easter. That part of the Gospel is harder to preach. It's also harder for each of us to accept personally. We Christians all talk a good line about suffering... but very few of us want to experience too much of it.
I mention this because, in developed countries like our own, when we talk about Jesus Christ-- and our own lives as Christians-- we tend to soften the rough edges. We leave out the part about the bloody nails. But the message makes no sense without the nails. Jesus Himself was very blunt about the cost, as well as the rewards, of discipleship: "Take up your cross and follow me." Expect to be reviled. Expect to be persecuted. Expect to be humiliated. The good news is not a message of niceness. It is a revolutionary message of new life in Christ through death to the self... and the world usually doesn't want to hear it, and will often resist it with violence.
TOMORROW: Part two of this four parter from Archbishop Charles Chaput, OFM Cap.