Sunday, December 18, 2011


Dear Friends,
Perhaps you have seen some of the yard signs, Facebook and newspaper ads, or television commercials or heard radio announcements calling us to “Find the Perfect Gift / Regalo Perfecto.” These are visible reminders about the meaning of Christmas and an invitation to those who may have forgotten or never quite knew what Christmas is all about. These colorful signs are part of a much larger Church-wide effort to share the Good News with those who may have drifted away. The overall effort is called the New Evangelization.
Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, has described the New Evangelization as an invitation to share the Good News that is Jesus, the Son of God. Like the angels who announced the birth of our Savior to the shepherds in the fields, we, too, are called to tell others of God’s redeeming love, mercy and peace, given to us in the form of a holy child of humble birth.
Even as we are putting up Christmas trees, hanging out wreaths and placing Nativity scenes in our homes, parochial schools and churches, there is clearly in our society in recent years an effort to reduce this season to simply a winter festival, a generic holiday, a retail/commercial bonanza. What began as a recognition of the birth of Christ is now being disconnected from the Gospel proclamation that God sent his Son Jesus among us.
Too often do we hear in the entertainment/information industry that this is really the post-Christian, post-faith era. One might be tempted to accept this thesis if one judged by the indicators of commercial interest.
Yet, in reality — in the world where you and I live — in the world of our values, convictions and hopes — there is another perspective. We see, even if only dimly, with the eyes of faith. In this light, we see the story of the birth of Christ not as a myth, not as unreliable history, not as an outdated influence from the past. We recognize him for who he is — the Word of God who became one of us and, as the creed professes, died, rose and will come again in glory.
When asked “What is the New Evangelization?” I think one response includes three elements: a) renewing our own understanding of the faith, b) restoring a confidence in what we believe, and c) being willing to share our gift of faith.
If each one of us were to commit to sharing this gift with one person this Christmas, or reminding them of it, lives might be changed in profound ways. It could be something as simple as inviting a friend to attend Mass or a Christmas concert with you. Or, perhaps you might feel more comfortable suggesting an act of charity you could undertake together. Regardless of the event or occasion, your invitation might be the very reason your friend or loved one has been waiting for to come back to the Church or to explore it for the first time. This feast day of Saint Nicholas seems such an appropriate time to think about offering the gift of Christ during this holy season to someone we care about.
In trying to answer the question “What does the New Evangelization have to do with Christmas?” we have to ask ourselves, how prepared are we to share the Good News of Christmas and perhaps even invite someone who should be with us to come back to Mass. Jesus beckons us to walk with him. “Come, follow me” (Mt 5:19). The joy we experience should compel us to share it with others. We are not only disciples, we are evangelists. Like those first disciples, we are called to envision ourselves walking alongside Jesus as the sower of the seeds of a new way of living, of a share in a kingdom that will last forever (cf Mt 13:1-9, 18-23; Mk 4:3; Lk 8:5).
It’s not enough, though, for us simply to tell others about the love and mercy of Christ. We are called to be a living example of all he embodies, especially during this time of great economic difficulty for many in our area. This local Church, through Catholic Charities and other entities, offers abundant opportunities for us to serve our brothers and sisters in need — whether they are struggling to feed and clothe their families, pay utility bills or find a place to sleep on a cold night. Volunteers, as well as donations, are always needed. By serving others, particularly the poorest among us, we serve Jesus himself: “…I assure you, as often as you did it for one of my least brothers, you did for me” (Mt 25:40).
In Seek First the Kingdom, I attempt to explain how we all can share in the joy of realizing God’s kingdom in our daily lives. The Advent and Christmas season is a time to remember more clearly and thank God more sincerely for the perfect gift that is ours and for the grace to actually make real in our lives what we ask for when we pray “Thy kingdom come.”
With prayerful best wishes for a joyous and peaceful Christmas for you and your family, I am
Faithfully in Christ,
Donald Cardinal Wuerl
Archbishop of Washington

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