FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL
THE NEW EVANGELIZATION
THE LOST SHEEP
November 8, 2012
Today’s gospel: Luke 15:1-10
Evangelization is all about searching for the lost sheep. God wants to bring back the lost, and God loves the repentant sinner. All people in the world are God’s children. Jesus came into the world in order to save all humankind. God would want to have all of His children be with Him forever in heaven. Unfortunately many in the world have turned away from God. This is especially true during these times. Thus there is a call to the New Evangelization.
The Catholic Church is the one true church founded by Jesus and established upon the rock that is Peter. From the first pope Peter to today’s Peter, Pope Benedict XVI, there has been a continuous line of 265 popes. The Church’s mission in the world remains the same, from the time she was founded on the day of Pentecost, and it is to proclaim Christ to all. This is her missio ad gentes.
Today’s gospel is about finding and bringing back those lost sheep. But let me adopt this gospel to a narrower focus. The hundred sheep are in the sheepfold with a shepherd. The sheepfold is the Church. The New Evangelization is about strengthening the Catholic Church, so that it can effectively do its worldwide mission.
If there were 99 righteous Catholics and only 1 lost, then the Church would be a most powerful force for evangelization and mission. However, the sad truth is shockingly different.
I refer you to excerpts from my new book, “The New Evangelization–A Work of the Divine Family.”
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We are familiar with the parable of the lost sheep (Lk 15:4-7). A man lost one sheep and so left the 99 in the desert to look for the one. Finding it, he rejoices and celebrates with a party. Jesus then says that “there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance.” This is followed by the parable of the lost coin (Lk 15:8-10). When the woman finds the lost coin, she throws a party. Jesus then says “there will be rejoicing among the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
In these parables we see the important point: God is concerned about the lost and will go all out to bring that person back. Further, there will be great rejoicing in heaven whenever that lost person is found and brought back.
Fine. But how wonderful it would be if there were indeed 99 righteous people who have no need of repentance and only one sinner who needs to repent (Lk 15:7). God would still search for that one who is lost, and the angels of God in heaven will still rejoice over his repentance, but the fact that only 1% would be lost and in need of repentance would be cause for the greatest rejoicing.
Unfortunately that is not the case. In fact, it is the reverse! Of all so-called Christians in the world (over 2 billion of them), perhaps only 1% are true Christians, in the full sense of the word, that is, who are living Christ, and 99% are in need of repentance. Though of course all are sinners falling short of the glory of God, the 1% may be said to be in right relationship with God, the way God intends it to be.
Though there are no statistics to support this (an in-depth study or survey, if that is possible, would have to be undertaken), it would not be far from the truth to view the situation of Christians today as follows:
50% are nominal and secular, many of them in serious sin. They do not live out their professed faith. They are living in the world and outside the life of the Church. They are not Christians at all, except in name.
25% are fairly good people, but their faith is something separate from their secular lives. They have compartmentalized their life as to spiritual and secular. Catholics may go to Mass every now and then, but the rest of the week are doing things that may not be pleasing to God.
15% are regular churchgoers, but still live according to their own personal priorities, agenda and desires. They do not know of nor live out the two greatest commandments (which sum up the whole prophets and the law). They have not turned their lives over completely to Jesus for him to run as he pleases.
9% are good Christians, basically transformed in Christ, but are not actively striving for holiness, living out discipleship, or doing evangelization. As such, they still fall short of the fullness of what it means to be a true Christian.
1% are true Christians who have no need for repentance (again, everyone is a sinner and still needs to repent, even of venial sin). Their lives belong to Jesus. They live righteous lives.
Given such a situation, there actually is grieving among the angels of God in heaven! Even among so-called Christians, the lost (not having found the fullness of life in Christ) are not only 1% but are the 99%!
The New Evangelization is critical! It is about seeking the one lost sheep that has strayed from the sheepfold. It is also about seeking the 99, even as these are already within the sheepfold. It is actually re-evangelization. It is going after those who are just nominally Christian and have lost the way. It is bringing them back to the sheepfold, the Church of which they should rightfully be a part. Evangelization is for pagans, and the New Evangelization is for baptized pagans.
The New Evangelization is not just about those Christians who can be considered pagans, that is, who have no place at all for Jesus in their lives. It is about those who are not living out the fullness of their calling as Christ’s followers. It is not only about those who commit sin, but also about those who omit the fullness of grace. It is not only about those who have gone astray and veered away from the right path, but also for those who are still walking along the right path, but not walking fast enough!
The New Evangelization is not only about expanding the sheepfold, but cleaning it up. It is about realizing that the enemy is not only out there, but also already within. It is not just about maintaining the life of the sheep, but ensuring that the sheep are healthy and strong.
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Where are you in the different groups above? Lest someone accuse me of being “holier-than-thou,” I am a sinner who is still a long way to holiness unto the Lord. In fact, when more is given, more is expected.
Our Catholic Church has sounded the call to the New Evangelization. Much is expected (see From the SG article yesterday). Being in CFC-FFL does not mean we are already there, secure in the sheepfold. In reality, we fall far short of what God expects of us.
Please read my new book, “The New Evangelization–A Work of the Divine Family.” I think you will find it very challenging. More importantly, I pray that this book will help prepare Catholics for this exciting time in the life of the Church and the world.
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