Humanity is hard-wired for God. Within us is a desire for eternity and no created reality can satisfy the deep caverns of the human spirit. Ours is a nature to know and to love, and so we can never say we have enough truth or that we love enough. Truth and love transcend material existence, so we can say we are made for more. God reveals himself to humanity so that humanity might find rest, for it is in God that we are possessed by truth and love itself — the source and origin of all things. This is the good news of the Scriptures. Despite the sad story of sin, which is really the story of trying to find satisfaction in things that can never satisfy, God reveals himself as the way to true healing and peace.
In his first encyclical letter on faith, Pope Francis tells us that faith is a kind of deep remembering. Faith is sharing in the knowledge of another. It trusts in the witness of those who have gone before us who have seen the truth. Our world has forgotten the truth about God. Ours is the task of reminding people where they can find true joy, a joy that can last. Many people call this task evangelization but, in reality, it is proposing or re-proposing the Good News of Jesus to people who already desire fulfillment. We who remember God share this with our world because it’s in this deep remembering that we find salvation.
Our family of faith, the Archdiocese of Hartford, has repositioned itself recently to re-propose the Gospel to our local neighborhoods. Sometimes pruning is necessary to allow new life to emerge. Coming together as one family of faith, united around Jesus, we are called to help our family and friends remember that God is real and that God matters. This is our joyful task. It is also a task that expects a great deal from us. In order to help our family and friends remember God effectively, we ourselves must be converted and convicted of the message Jesus brings. St. Peter urges us to always be ready to give an accounting for the hope that is within us. In order to evangelize, we ourselves must be in love with Jesus. We must be convinced of the message and firm in the knowledge that in the midst of the Church, we find real contact with the living Lord who is always with us.
The start of pastoral planning begins with us. Each of us must find time to remember why we have fallen in love with the Lord and then be emboldened to share that relationship found in the midst of the Church with our family and friends. If we find ourselves unsure of what we believe, we ought to spend time discovering anew the joy of the Gospel, so that others who have forgotten entirely might have the fire of divine love rekindled in their own hearts. It is not merely the job of some priest or religious to speak of the Lord each day — but it is the responsibility of each of us. As a community of faith, the Church mediates the presence of the Lord to us and teaches us like a good mother how to live with one another. Joseph Ratzinger, better known as Pope emeritus Benedict XVI, reminds us that we express the “I” of faith in the communal “we” of the Church. We recognize that the “I” of my relationship with the Lord is true and concrete only insofar as I am incorporated into the mystical body he established to communicate his living presence in our world.
As we continue pastoral planning, let’s remember that it’s always about the salvation of souls. Ours is the task of helping people find joy and fulfillment in life. We know that in Jesus we find the deepest satisfaction and meaning of life, the radical healing that is salvation. May our work of evangelization invite people to encounter Jesus and to enter his very life through the Church’s mediation, a life which well-lived endures into eternity.
Father Robert Turner is pastor of St. Ambrose Parish in North Branford.