S THE SECULAR WORLD dashes about frenetically searching for a solution to the millennium bug on its computers or ponders the pressing subject of where and how to celebrate New Year's Eve, 1999, we Christians have been issued a very different sort of challenge for the next century, to join the Church in its re-evangelization of the world.
For us as the would-be evangelizers doesn't this seem like an overwhelming, well nigh impossible, expectation? We see all around us a society lured by, even committed to, life styles that are in direct contradiction to the teachings of Christ. In our Church attendance is shrinking, with fewer priests and lay people do to its important work. In our smaller world many of those we love the most either ignore or openly reject this Christ who is everything to us.
Where to begin this mammoth task? Not to worry, says our God, for there is among you just the right person to lead the way. Our Holy Father, John Paul II, has articulated again and again a clear vision of the Church in the Third Millennium, the new springtime of Christianity, when all believers will be reunited before the cross of Christ. He is providing example and leadership as he travels around the world, despite his age and his deteriorating health, inspiring fellow Christians and dialoguing with leaders of many faiths.
Pope John Paul reminds us in his popular book Crossing The Threshold Of Hope that "against the spirit of the world, the Church takes up anew each day a struggle that is none other than the struggle for the world's soul." He urges us to model ourselves after the holy stubbornness of St. Paul as he set about evangelizing the then-known world, grounded in the profound truth that however great the number of sins committed, grace was even greater (Rm 5:20). "As the year 2000 approaches our world feels an urgent need for the Gospel," His Holiness insists, and it is incumbent upon us as believers to enter into the new evangelization in which the Gospel will be proclaimed to the ends of the earth.
He calls upon the young people in particular to carry on the pilgrimage of faith that they began at such awesome gatherings as the World Youth Day in Denver in 1993, which so many of Manitoba's finest attended. And it is the responsibility of the rest of us to "walk alongside the younger generation," to encourage and support them in their mission to make a better world, one which is truly reborn, where the authentic values of the Gospel will flourish.