Baltimore, Md., Nov 13, 2017 / 09:20 am (CNA/EWTN News).- On the opening day of the US bishops’ plenary assembly, Archbishop Christophe Pierre addressed the gathering, encouraging them to prioritize youth, the mission of evangelization, and Christ himself.
“I offer you the example of the patroness of your country, the Blessed Virgin Mary, as someone who went forth with a sense of urgency” to share the joy of Christ with her cousin, Elizabeth, the apostolic nuncio to the US said Nov. 13 in Baltimore, Md.
The archbishop noted that the US Conference of Catholic Bishops is celebrating its 100th anniversary, and urged that in addition to remembering the past, they must look to the forward, avoiding “small-mindedness” and recommending three things about which to be passionate: the youth, the mission of evangelization, and the Lord himself.
— JD Flynn (@jdflynn) November 13, 2017
Archbishop Pierre mentioned the importance of the upcoming Synod of Bishops which will focus on young people, “to learn from them and to help them to discover the path the Lord has chosen for them.”
He addressed “the difficulties of transmitting the faith in our day,” especially in the face of the rise of the number of people not identifying with any religious tradition. The youth, he said, are faced “not only with existential questions” such as finding work, but above all with spiritual problems.
Turning to the importance of evangelization, Archbishop Pierre recommended four characteristics of a “new evangelist”: boldness, connectedness, urgency, and joy.
“The statistics alone should give us a sense of urgency; but is it an urgency motivated by fear of loss, or is it the joy of sharing the gospel?” he asked, offering the example of the Virgin Mary’s Visitation: “having conceived of the Holy Spirit, she could not keep her joy to herself. Similarly, we cannot keep our joy to ourselves.”
An essential aspect of evangelization, he said, is “building a culture of encounter,” as Pope Francis is so fond of saying. He again pointed to Mary, who “was so passionate about bringing her Son to the world.”
It is critical to have a clear sense of mission, he stated, pointing out that many Americans, “including the young and those who do not know Christ … need to hear the basic kerygma,” the passion and resurrection of Christ “and the life he offers.”
The nuncio gave as examples the great evangelizers of the American past: St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, St. Junipero Serra, Bl. Stanley Rother, and Ven. Solanus Casey, who will be beatified next weekend. These were all exemplars of a “permanent state of mission,” he stated.
Being in a permanent state of mission is to be a faithful follower of Christ “who is in passionate love with his flock.” Returning to the youth, he said it is important to show them that “the Church is not self-referential but is there for them.”
Amid declining numbers, Archbishop Pierre told the bishops to “take courage,” for “there are signs of growth in the Church in the south and the west.” He recalled the recent dedication of a cathedral, attended by many Latinos, an experience which “confirmed for me the importance of the Fifth National Encuentro,” being held to assess and improve Hispanic ministry in the US. The Encuentro will be important for an “authentic renewal of the mission of evangelization,” he proclaimed.
The archbishop then turned to the prime importance of the person of Jesus, saying, “although we are pastors, we are first disciples.” As shepherds, the bishops are called to set an example of having a personal relationship with Christ based in prayer: “The time spent in prayer and adoration can renew us for the work of evangelization.”
In Christ “we find our true friend, who does not abandon us, so that we set out on mission with him and in him.”
“We are called first to be with Jesus,” he said, so that we can then go with him to his beloved flock, “to draw close to them, to be with them, to listen to them … and speak to them with the gentleness of Jesus.”
Going on mission without having spent time with Christ in prayer “would be going for a long drive without much fuel,” he reflected.
To enter into this life of prayer “we must empty ourselves of the many distractions of modern life,” he said, urging that each of the bishops “must ask himself: am I really passionate about Jesus? Do I convey that enthusiasm for the Lord?”
Archbishop Pierre concluded saying that despite demographic changes and the dictatorship of relativism, their ministry can bear fruit, recalling the missionary and apostolic zeal of the Spanish missionaries, the French Jesuits, and the early bishops of the United States, “who labored for the flock in the wilderness.”
This is a time of “opportunity for adventure, the adventure of faith,” a time “to be bold, trusting that the Lord will never abandon us.”
“For this reason, rather than to give into discouragement, we have every reason to be filled with hope and joy, because Jesus is in our midst … once more I repeat this can be a great moment for the Church in America.”