‘Be not afraid!’

Before the Cross - Archbishop Robert J. Carlson's Column

God’s greatest gift to us During these days, we celebrate the greatest gift which God has given to us, that is, our life in Christ, which had its beginning at His conception in the womb of the Virgin Mary and His birth of Mary at Bethlehem.At the start of a new calendar year, we reflect upon how we have lived in Christ during the past year.As a result of our reflection, we also make resolutions to follow Christ more sincerely and faithfully in the new gift of time, which God gives to us. Whenever we receive a gift, we recognize our responsibility to honor the giver and the gift by the way in which we care for the gift and use it. In the case of our life in Christ, the responsibility to honor the gift and the Giver, who, in fact, are one and the same — God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit — encompasses every aspect of our being and every moment of our lives. Once we come to know our Lord Jesus Christ and to receive Him into our hearts, then there can be nothing which we wish to keep from Him.There can be no time when we choose to be away from His company.Every day, rather, becomes for us a day to welcome our Lord Jesus more fully into our lives and to remain more faithfully in His company. Life in Christ as counter-cultural The gift of life in Christ makes us very different people in our society and culture today.Some of us have grown up at a time when our culture respected the Christian faith — along with other religious faiths — and even encouraged its practice as something good for society as a whole. Today, we live in a culture which is very different, a culture which Pope Paul VI called "dechristianized."In other words, our culture has abandoned any reference to Christ as the fullness of the revelation of God to us.The Christian life is no longer seen as something to be fostered as good for society but, rather, as contrary to the freedom which man as an individual and society as a whole should enjoy. Faithful Christians today, therefore, lead a necessarily counter-cultural life.We cannot expect that our culture understands what we believe and live.The culture no longer respects Christian faith and morals and, in fact, either ignores them or is hostile to them as somehow a diminishment of human freedom and possibility. Challenge of the new evangelization We find ourselves in a situation similar to that of the first disciples of Christ and of the first missionaries to our continent. Like the first disciples and the first missionaries to America, we live in a world which has not heard the Word of Christ, into which we have been sent to speak Christ’s Word and to witness of His life among us in the Church.Our situation is, however, different in that our culture had once heard the Word of Christ but now no longer hears Him.Our culture today may even call itself Christian but, in fact, it has grown forgetful of Christ and the demands of life in Him. We live a world which needs desperately to hear the Word of Christ again.We are Christ’s ambassadors in the world.The world needs to hear the Word of Christ from us and to witness Christ alive in our lives. From the beginning of his pontificate, Pope John Paul II, following in the way of Pope Paul VI, called upon Catholics, called upon us, to take up the work of the "new evangelization."In the homily which he gave at the beginning of his heroic service as successor of St. Peter, Pope John Paul II urged us to put aside our fears and to open totally our lives to Christ, so that Christ might be present in every corner of the world, to every brother and sister, and in every form of human endeavor.He spoke to us in words used by our Lord Jesus Christ to inspire and encourage His disciples: "Be not afraid" (Matthew 14:27; Mark 6:50; Luke 5:10; and John 6:20). For us, treasuring and honoring the gift of life in Christ means living in Christ with the enthusiasm and the energy of the first disciples, of the first missionaries to our nation.It means a willingness to be counter-cultural to bring Christ to our culture.It means living each day anew in Christ — what we call "daily conversion of life" — so that Christ may come to our society and culture — what we call the "transformation of our culture into a civilization of love." Let us pray, with special fervor in these days, that we may so live in Christ for our salvation and the salvation of the world.Let us hear the words of Christ to us: "Be not afraid!"

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