On Nov. 24, 2013, the feast of Christ the King, Pope Francis presented our Church with his first apostolic exhortation "Evangelii Gaudium" which translates to Joy of the Gospel. This exhortation is divided into five chapters: The Church's Missionary Transformation, Amid the Crisis of Communal Commitment, The Proclamation of the Gospel, The Social Dimension of Evangelization and Spirit-filled Evangelizers. The apostolic exhortation speaks both to evangelization and social justice.
The chapter on spirit-filled evangelizers is what I would like to emphasize in this article. In chapter five of "Evangelii Gaudium," Pope Francis writes, "Spirit-filled evangelizers means evangelizers fearlessly open to the working of the Holy Spirit. At Pentecost, the Spirit made the apostles go forth from themselves and turned them into heralds of God's wondrous deeds, capable of speaking to each person in his or her own language. The Holy Spirit also grants the courage to proclaim the newness of the Gospel with boldness (parrhesía) in every time and place, even when it meets with opposition. Let us call upon Him today, firmly rooted in prayer, for without prayer all our activity risks being fruitless and our message empty. Jesus wants evangelizers who proclaim the Good News not only with words, but above all by a life transfigured by God's presence."
At the end of this past summer, I was able to go to a conference for Hispanic Apostolate directors. Father Bruce Nieli, CSP, spoke on Action. The day of his talk was Aug. 28, which happened to be the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King's "I Had a Dream" speech.
Father Nieli read the whole speech to everyone present at the conference, noting that from this and the action of Dr. King came the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the voting rights of 1965. The people acted and they changed the course of history. They acted through nonviolence and peace. He challenged those at the conference to look at the life of Martin Luther King Jr., a man of prayer, but most importantly, action. This is what Pope Francis is calling all of us to do. He says that spirit-filled evangelizers are evangelizers who pray and work. Father Nieli challenged us to look at what is happening in the Church and in our neighborhoods, study and pray about it but do not stay there. It is important to take action as Dr. King did.
On Sunday, Jan. 19, the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Mass and reception will take place at SS. Columba & Brigid Church, 75 Hickory St., Buffalo, at 2 p.m. The main celebrant for the liturgy will be Bishop Richard J. Malone and the guest homilist is Father Chester Smith, SVD, from Indianapolis. The theme for the celebration will be "Do You Have the Power to Serve?"
On Jan. 20 we will continue with a Day of Service. Anyone who would like to volunteer for the Day of Service may call the Office of Cultural Diversity at 716-847-2217 or email me.