Last Thursday, April 19, was a beautiful day. As I walked out of the newly dedicated Bishop John McDowell Auditorium at the conclusion of the Spring Clergy Convocation and looked out over the green fields, the budding leaves and flowers bursting forth into new life on the campus of St. Paul Seminary, I said to Father Nick Argentieri of St. Elizabeth of Hungary Parish, who was walking beside me, “I don’t know how anyone could look at the natural beauty of our world and conclude that God does not exist!”
He expressed his agreement with an affirmation and a laugh. Beauty is a proof of God’s existence, and it has always baffled me how some scientists can observe the beauty of this world and still conclude that it is all the product of random chance. Really?
As Catholic Christians, the most beautiful sight of all is the face of Jesus Christ. In this season of Pascha (Greek for “Passover” or “Easter”), we celebrate the greatest passover from slavery to freedom; the passover from death to eternal life. St. Peter, filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, expresses this truth to the religious and civil authorities of Judea after being arrested for healing a crippled man of more than 40 years of age and preaching the resurrection from the dead in the name of Jesus Christ:
“Rulers of the people and elders of Israel [...] let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by him this man stands here before you whole. [...] Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4: 8-12) (emphasis added).
The crucified Jesus of Nazareth is raised from the dead! And through his death, he offers us eternal life. There is nothing more beautiful on heaven or on earth than this. It is the fulfillment of the promise made to Abraham long ago. And that is why the new evangelization, before it can be about bringing back fallen-away Catholics or welcoming those to join the fullness of the Catholic faith, is first about the interior renewal of those who profess the name of Jesus Christ.
What is the most beautiful thing that you have ever seen or experienced? How many of us would honestly say the resurrection of Jesus? If not, then we need to take a moment of pause and consider when was the last time we had an intimate encounter with our Lord, if at all. This is the ultimate desire of our hearts, and we need to continuously seek after it as the pearl of great price.
The charismatic vitality of Blessed John Paul II was precisely because he had encountered and continued to encounter the Lord in a deep and personal relationship. He experienced this, he knew this, and he expressed it clearly in his teaching:
“A fresh encounter with Jesus Christ will make all the members of the church in America aware that they are called to continue the Redeemer’s mission in their lands.
“If it is genuine, the personal encounter with the Lord will also bring a renewal of the church: [...] To the extent that these goals are reached, there will emerge an ever-increasing dedication to the new evangelization of America” (“Ecclesia in America,” 7).
All of our teaching, our traditions, our art and architecture flow out of and from the beauty of the face of the risen Christ, who is looking at us and calling us home.
The new evangelization calls us to a continual encounter of Jesus, and we must seek him with all our heart, mind and soul. We must seek him by running in haste to the one person with whom we are in the most disagreement with and like least and be reconciled. Reverence the image of Christ in all people and in all things, for all things have been redeemed by him. Then we will become all fire. Then we will effectively evangelize and set the whole world on fire.
People in the Diocese of Pittsburgh are starting to catch fire. An entire pastoral council of one of our parishes has signed up for the Evangelizing Parish Conference on June 8-9 at St. Paul Seminary. The purpose of the conference is ultimately to provide an opportunity for people to encounter the risen Lord and recommit to following and sharing him with others.
To encourage more parishes to follow suit, for groups of 10 or more who sign up, there will be a 10 percent discount on the ticket price. For more information about the conference, go to the diocesan website at http://www.diopitt.org/department-evangelization/evangelizing-parish-conference or e-mail email@example.com.
Deacon Wroblicky is diocesan secretary for evangelization and social concerns.