Having the Spiritual vision to evangelize

As you can read throughout this special edition of The Anchor, our new bishop, Most Rev. Edgar M. da Cunha, has stressed the importance of evangelization through being a welcoming community, reminding us of our need to represent the love of Christ to all people whom we meet.

While serving in New Jersey, Bishop da Cunha also stressed this message. In 2012 all the Catholic bishops of the Garden State issued a document about poverty there. The bishop himself said about the poor, “They are often invisible to us.” To carry out the charge that our new bishop gave us at his installation, we need to better be able to see the poor and other marginalized people, asking the Holy Spirit to help strengthen our Spiritual vision.

Bishop da Cunha was also quoted in the 2011 book, “The Emerging Catholic Church: A Community’s Search for Itself,” by Tom Roberts. In it Bishop da Cunha spoke about overcoming another Spiritual blindness — that of being so parochial that we forget that we are all part of a larger Church community. He said, “We are working towards people seeing a wider view of Church rather than ‘My little world here. My parish is my little world and we are self-contained here.’ We are trying to help people look beyond that parochial vision of ‘it’s just my parish, leave me alone with it.’”

We need that broad vision, in terms of how we relate to Catholics from other parishes, dioceses or countries, and in terms of how we interact with people while on Church grounds. It is good that people feel so “at home” at Mass that they have a traditional spot where they sit — when they are absent, people might give a call to their home to see if they are OK. However, when we become possessive of our location in the church, telling people to move because “you’re in my spot,” something is wrong. That type of attitude reflects more the jostling of the Apostles at the Last Supper than the Spiritual-filled love that they had for each other (in the same location) at Pentecost. We need to ask the Holy Spirit to fill us with His love, so that we can be happy that someone has taken “my spot,” happy that another person has come to Mass, happy that another person wants to be together with us in the Lord.

That type of vision is broader than just looking with love at our fellow Catholics. As the presence of ecumenical and interfaith representatives reminded us at Bishop da Cunha’s installation Mass, we are called to reach out with the love of Christ to everyone. Back on May 13, 2010, the bishop was speaking in the New Jersey state house and said, “Our [Catholic] schools welcome children from diverse backgrounds and are mainstays in many areas where public schools are not succeeding. Catholic schools educate students of all faiths because we believe in the parable of the Good Samaritan. In inner-city parochial schools, 80 percent of our students are non-Catholic. This is our Christian mission. We are not running a business, we are running a mission. We are about faith, hope and service.”

Besides our Catholic schools, the many agencies funded by our annual Catholic Charities Appeal also help many non-Catholics and non-Christians with their material needs, planting a seed so that their hearts might be open to the Spiritual assistance we stand ready (or should stand ready) to offer them. To borrow an analogy from the bishop’s installation homily — we do the “Martha” work with those in need so that the “Mary” work (for which they also thirst, although without knowing it) which we can also offer them, will be available for them in God’s time.

We ask God, through the intercession of SS. Martha and Mary, to watch over Bishop da Cunha and guide him, while also helping all of us to respond to our baptismal calling, as well as our particular vocations, to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ in this portion of His vineyard. As Martha and Mary grew in their love for the Lord and for each other (even after He corrected Martha), may our Spiritual growth help ourselves and our brothers and sisters to be like Lazarus, coming out of the cave of sinfulness so as to walk in the freedom of the children of God. 

© 2018 The Anchor and Anchor Publishing   †   Fall River, Massachusetts