It is cliché, and perhaps even trite to declare that we live in “uncertain times,” or that we must learn to adjust to a “new normal,” especially now in light of not just a global pandemic, but civil unrest that is turning increasingly violent and destructive.
I will admit that I, too, have been guilty of using the language of uncertainty these past several weeks. I will no longer do so after some much-needed reflection this past Sunday.
After several weeks of lockdown in Washington, D.C., where my wife and I live and work, we were finally able to participate in the sacrifice of the Holy Mass by leaving the city. The Eucharist is the “source and summit of the Christian life,” and being deprived of this sacrament brings to bear what is “essential” versus what is not.
It was during the homily last Sunday that I finally witnessed a priest declare what we all needed to hear — there is nothing “uncertain” about the Christian life.
We are certain because we have placed our certainty in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is a certainty that informs our faith, and a faith that is conditional on the slings and arrows of life is no faith at all. It is time to remind our brothers and sisters that we follow the Good Shepherd, and it is our duty to lead those astray to the Truth, not a truth. In other words, we must recommit ourselves to the call of the new evangelization, as Pope St. John Paul II declared in his 1990 encyclical, Redemptoris Missio:
I sense that the moment has come to commit all of the Church's energies to a new evangelization and to the mission ad gentes. No believer in Christ, no institution of the Church can avoid this supreme duty: to proclaim Christ to all peoples.
This is not a tepid request for the laity to simply attend church more often, or to express empty platitudes about Jesus as a good moral teacher. It is a “missionary mandate” meant to rouse a culture that has atrophied into decadence and decline. It is a call to action, and the actions we take in accordance with this duty should reflect the unique talents and abilities gifted to each of us by God.
When we think about evangelization, we often restrict its scope to activities carried out by the Church proper, or by those consecrated in religious life. This should not be the case, and the scale of crisis we now face as a nation should compel us to take a more expansive view of evangelization and its benefits to civil society.
For example, a 2016 study from Georgetown University estimates that religiously inspired businesses and nonprofits contribute more than $1 trillion per year to the socio-economic health of the United States. This makes sense when one considers the multitude of social services offered by faith-based organizations such as, “education, healthcare, local congregational activities, charities, media, and food.”
Catholics are especially compelled to respond to this form of evangelization, because serving and loving our neighbor is inherently a proclamation of Christ. As was promulgated in the Second Vatican Council’s decree on the apostolate of the laity, Apostolicam Actuositatem:
In regard to the Christian renewal of the temporal order, the laity should be instructed in the true meaning and value of temporal things, both in themselves and in relation to all the aims of the human person. They should be trained in the right use of things and the organization of institutions, attentive always to the common good in line with the principles of the moral and social teaching of the Church.
In the 21st century, those “trained in the right use of things and the organization of institutions,” necessarily include attorneys, accountants, entrepreneurs, and nonprofit professionals who have an understanding of corporate governance, tax compliance, labor law and more. These men and women have the technical skills and practical know-how required for building up and protecting the institutions that are advancing the New Evangelization. It is time for our professional class to step up and accept this supreme call of duty. It can no longer be avoided.
It is a divisive time; it is a difficult time; but it is not an uncertain time. No such thing exists in the Christian life. Now more than ever is the time to empower evangelization by building and supporting the institutions dedicated to the common good. Of this we are certain.
Josh Holdenried serves as the vice president and executive director for Napa Legal Institute,
which provides corporate education and legal resources for faith-based nonprofits.