As we draw nearer to the end of the celebration of the Year of Faith I think it is important that we not lose site of the crucial call of the New Evangelization. In effort to sustain the energy, enthusiasm, and inspiration we all drew from the Year of Faith, we should not forget what it is that we’re up against. The enemy can only reach a vantage point if he is ignored and therefore permitted to advance his position and plan of attack. This is what I hear the Bishops warning against in the following excerpt in which they discuss the obstacles to the transmission of the faith.
“The principal obstacles to the transmission of the faith are the same everywhere and arise from within the Church and the Christian life, namely, a faith which is lived in a private and passive manner; a person's not feeling the need to be instructed in the faith; and a separation of faith from life. The responses also mention obstacles from outside the Christian life, especially from culture, that make it difficult and perilous to live and transmit the faith: consumerism and hedonism, cultural nihilism; and a closure on transcendence which extinguishes any need for salvation.”
The response from the Bishops is two-fold: 1) Obstacles from within and 2) Obstacles from without. I don’t know which to fear more? Perhaps, the obstacles that exist from within are more detrimental to the life and mission of the Church than the obstacles that arise from the outside. Nevertheless, we can be sure that a combination of the two can be deadly to the spiritual life. I know in my personal life there are many times in which I have chosen a “private and passive” manner of living out my faith that was certainly influenced by the culture. I don’t need to go to Mass, I don’t need to confess my sins to a priest, I don’t need to visit the sick, I don’t need to donate or give my money for the benefit of the Church or others, I don’t need to stand out on a public sidewalk with a sign that causes people to reflect on how abortion hurts everyone. And so on, and so forth. My faith, so I thought was fine the way it was: “personal and passive.”
Except that’s not the way Faith was meant to be lived. Faith, like life, is not meant to be lived in isolation! We are social beings with a need for communion! We can’t allow an individualized, “what’s in it for me” type of culture to get us to think sharing and living out our faith in communion doesn’t matter! I am fully aware of this now and my vocation to teach reminds me every day that I am not called to be a passive receiver of the Gospel but an active “re-gifter”!
Bart Zalvetta is a member of the Theology Department of Skutt Catholic High School in Omaha, Nebraska