if you have love for one another. (Jn 13:35)
Objective: To renew our commitment to create a culture inspired by gospel values, by living out our faith in all areas of life.
Can you believe it! Is it possible? We are in the midst of celebrating 2000 years of Christianity! What should we be about this Easter of 2000? What do you suppose God wants us to do? Perhaps we should be living out the meaning of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection. As we celebrate for the millennium, we are handed a great responsibility. We must carry on a tradition of faith that has existed for 2000 years. In this session we will reflect on this responsibility. A great resource to us is the Eucharist. The gift of Eucharist challenges us to seek unity where there is conflict and to be light where there is darkness. As the body of Christ we must bridge the gap between faith and life and be bearers of the gospel to the world. We must embody the Eucharist and be Jesus for the world today and tomorrow. We are the Jesus that must feed the hungry, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, care for the sick and visit the imprisoned. We are the Jesus that must love our neighbor, honor our parents and teach the children what Jesus taught us. We are the Jesus that must gather each week with other believers to support the Church and community through our prayers, gifts and talents. We are the ones who must live Easter and die for our faith. We must proclaim that Jesus has risen. Alleluia! By the end of this session participants should understand that Easter isn't just for one day. Easter is each and every day. When Jesus breathed into humanity it was for all time.
Welcome and Prayer (15 minutes)
Welcome the participants and ask them to briefly introduce themselves. Start the session with a simple prayer and a bilingual song, such as Cesareo Gabarain's "Id y Enseñad/Go and Teach" (Flor y Canto, #336, Oregon Catholic Press) or Bob Hurd's "Pan de Vida/Bread of Life." Another song, not Eucharist oriented, speaks of accepting God's call to be bearers of the gospel: Donna Pena's "Digo Si Señor/I Say Yes My Lord."
Sharing Our Experiences (40 minutes)
What does faith have to do with daily life and culture? Should there be a relationship between Sunday Mass and Monday morning; between what I believe in faith and what I live every day? People who live their faith in everyday life make a difference in our community and inspire others to do the same. Inspiring people are found in every community of faith. In many cases they are simple folk like the grandmother of the family, a youth of the parish, a neighborhood couple, or a teacher in the local school. Inspirational individuals do not always stand out by being the most popular or the ones who speak best. What is common to all of them is their commitment to live according to gospel values day-in and day-out, especially in adverse circumstances. Like Jesus they welcome, affirm, love, forgive, trust and challenge others. These men and women spoke the truth, sought peace, served others, and were kind, generous, and faithful. Their life witness is the best example of discipleship. It is an enthusiastic invitation for others to live the good news of Jesus in every human situation (Go and Make Disciples, p. 2).
- Who in your community inspires others to live the gospel values in everyday life? How are they Christlike?
- Give examples of how you live the Gospel.
- What makes it difficult for you to live your faith at home, work, school or on campus?
Reflecting on Our Faith Tradition (40 minutes)
Jesus Christ is not an idea, but a concrete, historic individual: the Son of God who became the son of Mary in a given time, place, and culture so as to redeem us (The Hispanic Presence in the New Evangelization in the United States, p. 20). Jesus lived faithfully the gospel values in his own particular culture. He also had to challenge expectations and attitudes contrary to those values. The Gospel is full of examples in which Jesus transformed these enslaving situations by inculturating them with the values of the kingdom of God. With the healing on the Sabbath day, Jesus teaches that the Sabbath is for the good of the individual, not the individual for the Sabbath. In mixing with sinners and publicans and having social contacts with non-Jews, Jesus teaches that God's love and his plan of salvation reach across cultural and geographic boundaries toward everyone. With his miracles, Jesus witnesses to God's will, and brings forgiveness, reconciliation, healing, and liberation to everyone. With his teachings and deeds, Jesus brings faith, life, and culture together by affirming what is genuine and good in the culture, and challenging what is false, mistaken, and undesirable.
Evangelization consists precisely in continuing this good work: in transforming, in the name of Jesus Christ and with the power of the Holy Spirit, every belief, attitude, and behavior in our culture, so as to affirm the life and dignity of each person, in accord with the values and promises of the kingdom of God.
- By which activities or actions do those around you give witness to Jesus' message of love, hope, and faith?
- What attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors present in your life need to be challenged and transformed by the Good News of Jesus Christ? What about those people around you?
Putting Our Faith into Action (40 minutes)
Pope John Paul II warns that we live amidst a cultural crisis of unsuspected proportions, in which fundamental gospel and human values tend to disappear and give way to attitudes, deeds, and situations that separate us from God and from one another (CELAM 1992, no. 230). Putting things before persons, getting rich at the expense of the weakest, fomenting racial contempt, and educating without moral values are some examples of the cultural crisis. John Paul II calls for a New Evangelization that will renew the commitment of the Church, and of each believer, to bridge the gap between faith and life. For a faith that does not build a culture based on gospel values is a sterile faith (The Hispanic Presence in the New Evangelization in the United States, p. 16). Conversion is incomplete if we are not aware of the demands of Christian life and if we do not strive to live them (Ecclesia in America, no. 27). The New Evangelization calls us to an ongoing process of conversion. It aims to bridge the gap between our faith and our daily duties in family, work, and social life. To better respond to this challenge, the New Evangelization calls for a "new apostolic zeal" capable of generating "new enthusiasm" in the proclamation of the Gospel with "new methods" that effectively use imagination, creativity, and the technical and scientific resources available to share the good news.
- Identify actions that can bring about a New Evangelization in the five areas listed below. (Such actions can include serving the homeless at a local shelter as a way of service to others or a visit to a local retreat center, cathedral, or shrine to pray for new understanding in living out our faith in the world.)
- In the lifestyle of the faith community (koinonia)
- In the celebration of the liturgy and prayer (liturgia)
- In the teaching of the faith and the values of the Gospel (didache)
- In the service of others and the work for charity and justice (diaconia)
- In the proclamation that Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, yesterday, today, and forever (kerygma)
- In the lifestyle of the faith community (koinonia)
- Develop a plan to implement actions.
Gathering Our Experiences (15 minutes)
- What helped you participate in this session and what made it difficult?
- What did you learn and accept about others?
- What did you learn about your faith?
- How did people make a commitment to implement a course of action?
Celebrating Our Faith as a Community (25 minutes)
- Opening hymn/song
- Invocation or invitation to prayer
- Scriptural reading
- Prayer of thanksgiving or petition
- The Lord's Prayer
- Final prayer and sign of peace
- Closing hymn
For Those Attending WYD 2000
To be a practicing Catholic is truly counter cultural. While the rest of the world commercializes all the symbols of the season and strives to be trendy, we live through Advent praying and singing in hope and expectation. When Christmas comes the rest of the world stops its celebrating while we know the joys of Christ present with the Feasts of the Epiphany and Baptism of the Lord. If practiced, observing Advent and Christmas keeps us truer to the real meaning of the holiday season. Can we learn a similar lesson with Easter?
Oh how we have prayed, suffered, sacrificed, struggled, healed, confessed, wondered, cheated (a couple of times) through Lent-it's truly exhausting! Now it's Easter, and as with most things of this world, time to bring it all to an end with an egg hunt, our new hats, and maybe a nice dinner.
This Jubilee Year as you prepare for your pilgrimage to World Youth Day 2000 why not be counter cultural? This year, what if we strived to keep the joy of Christ risen in our hearts throughout the fifty days of the Easter season to Pentecost? What if we strived to make each Sunday of Easter a celebration of being alive, strengthened ties with families and friends, reached out to someone new? Whatever we vowed to do during Lent, let us pray to integrate into our lives now. Let others see in our actions that we are people of the resurrection and that we believe that life is stronger than death. Who knows? Maybe we'll start a new trend.
- What must you do to keep faithful to your Lenten promises?
- What risks do you fear being counter cultural?
- What are ways you can practice Easter at home, work or school?