FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL
THE NEW EVANGELIZATION
THE GOSPEL OF THE CROSS
September 3, 2012
Today’s reading: 1 Corinthians 2:1-5
Evangelization is the proclamation of the good news of salvation in Jesus. But this good news is about the suffering and death of Jesus on the cross, by which he paid the price for our sins and won for us our salvation. Such is the essential element. Our lives are now to be centered on Jesus, and so Paul affirms, “For I resolved to know nothing …. except Jesus Christ” (1 Cor 2:2a). Everything is about Jesus. He is to be the be-all and end-all of our lives. We are to live for him. We are to follow him. We are to strive to become like he is.
But that is not all Paul says. In the same breath, he adds, “and him crucified.” (1 Cor 2:2b). We are to know nothing but Jesus, and him crucified.
The cross is an essential aspect of the gospel. In fact, it is at the very center of the good news of salvation in Jesus. But many Christians today shun the cross. Yes they know that Jesus died on the cross, and we Catholics constantly see a depiction of that through the crucifix we have in churches and on our rosaries. But Christians fail to see that the way of salvation is the way of the cross, not just for Jesus, but for everyone of us, here and now. Christians fail to realize that they should not just mindlessly view the crucified Christ, but should be walking towards the cross and ultimately embracing it, if they are to embrace Christ. Christ and the cross are one package.
Jesus tells us that if we want to follow him we must embrace our cross daily. If we follow him we can expect, not only good things, but persecution as well. We live in a world dominated by the evil one. If we evangelize, we engage in spiritual battle and confront the enemy, who then assaults us. If we try to live like Christ, the evil one will try to bring us down.
Christians today look on the cross as just part of doctrine, but not as a way of life. The world in fact has co-opted Christians, making them look to comfort, pleasure, the good life, the blessings without the pains.
Christians are taught, and expect, that if they accept Jesus into their lives, they will be blessed. Rightly so. But they define blessings in the way that the world does. They do not consider the crosses in life, the suffering and the pains, as blessings, but rather as stumbling blocks and foolishness.
But it is the cross that makes us truly Christian. Through the crosses in life, we are humbled, we are able to empty ourselves, we are led to depend totally on God, we grow in trust and hope, we are able to empathize with those who suffer, we are given powerful testimonies of faith to help us evangelize, we are purified in our avowed desire to follow Jesus, we are given the privilege of walking in the very footsteps of Jesus and sharing, though in a much smaller way, in the very suffering of Christ.
Now all those are what will make us truly Christian! All those are what will bring us to holiness. All those are what makes it possible for us to strive to Christian perfection.
Preaching about the cross and a life of embracing the cross is what is largely missing in the life of Christians today. Today there are false gospels being preached. People hear about the gospel of prosperity, how if one accepts Jesus one will be successful in business, will be healed, will have all prayers answered. Indeed there will be tremendous blessings, but there will also be the cross. Some who work with the poor want to make the poor rich and poor nations First World nations. But the solution to poverty is not wealth but rather that no one is in need. Those who become rich in fact are hardest to evangelize and First World nations have lost the faith. On the other hand, the faith is strongest in those nations where Christians are persecuted and even martyred.
The call then to a New Evangelization is a call to proclaim the authentic gospel of Jesus Christ, and that is a gospel of the cross. One living the cross becomes a very powerful witness, just like Paul. Then we can say, “my message and my proclamation (are) not with persuasive words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of spirit and power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.” (1 Cor 2:4-5).
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