By Stephanie D’souza
CFC SFL Goa , India
The Philippine Conference for New Evangelization for me was all about learning what it means to be a missionary. There were two sessions that had an impact on me that resulted in an attitudinal change.
For as long as I have been able to form my own opinions my faith was no longer restricted to what I was taught at home or that which i practiced during my childhood, it changed to become totally Christocentric and then upgraded to a Trinitarian centered faith. Simply saying it I no longer felt the need for Mother Mary or the Saints and thus ceased to seek their intercession. It didn’t end there gradually I began to subconsciously think lesser of people who were devotional.
At the conference I was affirmed that as members of the Church we are called to be a missionary people, to go onto the streets and bring Christ to everyone. Everyone was by majority the poor, the young and those who’ve wandered away. Many youth and Catholics are leaving the Church… the question posed was have they lost the Church or has the Church lost them? Pope Francis I says, “Do not speak about largely important, largely irrelevant and pseudo-intellectual things because they will not understand”. We are called to BE Christ to them. The world needs Christ more than it ever has and we must go forth as such. We are not called to give our own solutions, our own wisdom, our own interpretations and theories but rather to give Christ (gospel) pure and undiluted. And ‘Devotions’ according to Fr. Catalino Arevalo is the Holy Spirit working in the lives of the poor, a genuine work of grace and a true way to live out the gospel.
Here is where my attitudinal change transpired. If devotions as a spirituality was a means to finding Christ or Christ revealing Himself to His people, who was I to think it as something inferior and be judgmental? Jesus has the authority to use whatever means to reveal His love to His people. Thus I was humbled and was led to a state of admiration bordering envy for all those people who have ardent devotions to Mama Mary and the Saints. I have embarked on a journey to find my patron saint and title of Mary to lead me in my walk to Christ.
About my learning to be a missionary well I don’t know the second thing about being one, the first was easy, answering the call. Bishop Pablo Virgilio David put my doubts and apprehensions to rest when he explained the ‘Walk to Emmaus’ in a different light i.e. New evangelization in the light of scriptures.
In contemporary times the word ‘evangelization’ has level of suspicion that tags along, for the very simple reason that the old way of going about it was in the form of ‘proselytism’ or forced change. All the colonial rulers used this technique of the Cross first then the sword, the Bible first then the rifle. Hence there was a need for a reformation. Bl. Pope John Paul II said the new evangelization is new in ardour, new in its methods and new in its expression. The new evangelists do it the Jesus way as related in the “model” for missionaries.
A new evangelist appears as a stranger in the midst of his brethren, they draw near, then they walk beside, they listen attentively to their story, and then help them retell their story in a different light i.e. with a theme of hope and redemption. The new evangelist stays with them and breaks bread, they lead them to recognize their personal encounter with Jesus, then they disappear from them so Christ can become the fire within them that will redirect their journey back to God.
I realized in all this I am not called to interpret scripture rather I’m called to interpret my experience of Christ and be Christ to the weary traveller on my journey to Heaven. I’m excited to go forth and be a witness to the gospel.
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