Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila of Denver says the end of the Year of Faith should encourage Catholics to continue to grow from an encounter with Christ and to share their faith with others.
“The Year of Faith was not a marketing campaign for Catholics to get excited about; it was a time to meet Jesus and his Church, to come to know and love Jesus and his Church more deeply. It was a time to grow in intimacy with Jesus, to encounter the Lord in your heart,” the archbishop said in a Nov. 21 pastoral letter to his archdiocese.
“Our lives are forever changed the more we fall in love with Jesus!” he said.
The archbishop said that Catholics should “courageously and joyfully” share their faith in Christ and tell others about Jesus, as St. Andrew told his brother St. Peter.
“From St. Peter's life, we can see that the experience of faith should lead us to witness to the truth, to Jesus himself, who is the truth.”
Pope Benedict XVI declared the Year of Faith from Oct. 11, 2012 to Nov. 24, 2013 to renew the Catholic faithful and to help restore God’s presence in the world.
As the year comes to a close, Archbishop Aquila urged Catholics to continue to grow in their understanding, of faith and to make use of formation opportunities n the Denver archdiocese.
He encouraged Catholics to study the documents of the Second Vatican Council, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and “most especially” to take part in daily prayer with Sacred Scripture. He encouraged efforts to serve and encounter the poor, in the ministries and volunteer opportunities in the archdiocese.
Archbishop Aquila said that despite the unique challenges of contemporary culture, there is still “the longing for love” and the desire “to be united with God, who is love itself.”
The archbishop said the Year of Faith has been a “time of grace” in which the faith of many has been deepened. This is “vital” for the future “because the cultural context we live in is becoming increasingly dismissive of faith.”
Retired pontiff Benedict XVI called the year of faith because “Western culture has forgotten God,” the archbishop said.
Benedict announced the Year of Faith his October 2011 apostolic letter “Porta Fidei,” While there was previously a “unitary cultural matrix” that was broadly accepted, he explained, this is no longer the case “because of a profound crisis of faith that has affected many people.” The faith risks being “extinguished” in “vast areas of the earth,” he warned.
Archbishop Aquila said that the present age is “historically unprecedented” because Western societies are trying to exist “without any reference to God or a deity of some kind.”
“In contemporary Western society, good and evil are being cast aside in favor of following passions and indulging desires. Each person is left to personally decide what is good and what is evil with no reference to any objective criteria,” the archbishop said.
He said the the loss of “the sense of community” is a factor in this change. This loss harms people’s image of God because the Trinity is “the perfect model of how to love unconditionally within families and in society at large.”
“Relationships become shallower and the desire for the true good of the other is set aside in favor of personal profit in this life. In families, the most basic cell of society, self-sacrifice for the sake of eternal reward is replaced with the temporary pleasures this life offers.”
The “explosion” in technology, especially in communications, is another factor in the new culture. While the Church can bring the Gospel to the far corners of the earth, “the sheer volume of messages and the convincing way that some of them are presented has created confusion about some of the most fundamental questions in life.”
The truth must now compete with “many destructive answers” to questions about the nature of humanity, freedom, happiness and truth.
Western culture also believes that Christianity “has been tried and found insufficient,” the archbishop said.
Responding to these challenges will not be easy, but can be “painful” and involve the cross.
Archbishop Aquila urged prayers for fortitude, because “our culture will challenge, reject and even hate us because of our faith in Jesus and his Church.”
And although hatred of God and mockery of people of faith is becoming acceptable, there are “people of good will who, for all of their imperfections, are just waiting to meet Christ.”
He urged Catholics to “move out of our comfort zones” and become “more evangelistic.”
“Everyone in the Archdiocese of Denver has an opportunity to encounter Jesus and grow in faith, even once the Year of Faith is over,” the archbishop said.
“Jesus, the one who is love, mercy and truth, stands ready to meet you, in prayer, in the sacraments and in the spiritually and materially poor. He desires to call you ‘friend.’”
“And once you have met him, the Holy Spirit will fill you with a joy that cannot be contained, that impels you to 'go and make disciples of all nations.'”