The Church’s most prominent outreach today, the New Evangelization, aims at reviving the spiritual lives of those who have drifted from Christ. While these people may have been baptized and perhaps catechized, while they may attend Church semi-regularly, they have never been truly evangelized. They have never experienced a life-changing encounter with Jesus Christ or real transformation through his Church.
A couple weeks ago, Pope Francis delivered a powerful message to the Brazilian bishops in the midst of his World Youth Day celebrations. Unfortunately, it didn’t get nearly the attention it deserved.
Speaking on the New Evangelization, and using the Emmaus Journey as a framework, the Pope encouraged his listeners to reflect on why people reject the Church today—why, like the Emmaus disciples, they decide to walk the other way. To bring people back to Christ and his Church, we must understand why they leave in the first place.
To that end, Pope Francis offered ten specific reasons:
1. The Church no longer offers anything meaningful or important.
2. The Church appears too weak.
3. The Church appears too distant from their needs.
4. The Church appears too poor to respond to their concerns.
5. The Church appears too cold.
6. The Church appears too caught up with itself.
7. The Church appears to be a prisoner of its own rigid formulas.
8. The world seems to have made the Church a relic of the past.
9. The Church appears unfit to answer the world’s new questions.
10. The Church speaks to people in their infancy but not when they come of age.
Read the excerpt below for more context:
“The two disciples have left Jerusalem. They are leaving behind the ‘nakedness’ of God. They are scandalized by the failure of the Messiah in whom they had hoped and who now appeared utterly vanquished, humiliated, even after the third day.
Here we have to face the difficult mystery of those people who leave the Church, who, under the illusion of alternative ideas, now think that the Church—their Jerusalem—can no longer offer them anything meaningful and important. So they set off on the road alone, with their disappointment. Perhaps the Church appeared too weak, perhaps too distant from their needs, perhaps too poor to respond to their concerns, perhaps too cold, perhaps too caught up with itself, perhaps a prisoner of its own rigid formulas, perhaps the world seems to have made the Church a relic of the past, unfit for new questions; perhaps the Church could speak to people in their infancy but not to those come of age.
It is a fact that nowadays there are many people like the two disciples of Emmaus; not only those looking for answers in the new religious groups that are sprouting up, but also those who already seem godless, both in theory and in practice.
Faced with this situation, what are we to do?
We need a Church unafraid of going forth into their night. We need a Church capable of meeting them on their way. We need a Church capable of entering into their conversation. We need a Church able to dialogue with those disciples who, having left Jerusalem behind, are wandering aimlessly, alone, with their own disappointment, disillusioned by a Christianity now considered barren, fruitless soil, incapable of generating meaning.”
Which of these reasons do you see as most significant?
(HT: Thomas Doran at Catholic World Report)