The context of serial re-evangelization will take account of the peculiar circumstances of the present day and in Ireland we minister in circumstances uniquely our own:
* circumstances of political and social division: therefore we must be apostles of peace and justice;
* circumstances of denominational and religious diversity: therefore we must be apostles of respectful restraint and gracious dialogue;
* circumstances of recession, fear, rising unemployment and renewed poverty: therefore we must be apostles of generous care and a socially responsible morality.
* We minister among highly educated and sophisticated people: therefore we must be the apostles of learned simplicity but never of the simplistic.
* We minister in an environment, partly of our own making, in which religion is seen as discredited and irrelevant, faith is dismissed, worship is ignored and religious culture is no longer thrilling: therefore we must be apostles of joy and fulfillment, not by turning worship into entertainment but with the recognition that by worshipping and serving with integrity we may be serving angels, for God writes off no one.
These are our circumstances. The challenge to us is not to lament our circumstances but to transform them. Evangelization is the work of transformation. The role of the Church, in good times and in bad, is to stand alongside those who are finding it hardest to cope, whatever their circumstances; to exhibit in practical and personal ways the loving concern of God for all people but especially for the vulnerable; and to be a beacon of hope to the living, for nothing is more spiritually, socially and physically restorative than love and hope. We have to shape our life and institutions at all levels to reflect these priorities. We need to be less concerned about defending the institution and more concerned about enhancing the lives of people.
In the parishes, evangelization and thus transformation is rooted in, but not confined to pastoral care: clergy having time and spending time with their people and others who come to them for help; clergy enabling liturgical worship to be attractive and accessible; clergy standing beside the people of their communities in life’s difficulties. But let us not fall into the trap of assuming that all pastoral, ministerial and missional endeavour is reserved to the clergy. It is the whole People of God, the Body of Christ, present in every parish, which is called through baptism to share in the mission of God.
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