Christianity's Challenge Today

According to Theologian Father Raúl Berzosa Martínez

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BURGOS, Spain, JULY 25, 2004 ( Today more than ever the challenge facing Christians «is to proclaim Jesus Christ with freshness and realism,» a theologian asserts.

Christianity must be «incarnated» and Christians must be able to discern and «evangelize the culture and society of their time,» says Father Raúl Berzosa Martínez, author of «Ten Challenges to Christianity from the New Emerging Culture,» published in Spain by Divine Word Publications.

Father Berzosa, pro-vicar general and pastoral vicar of Burgos, is a professor at the School of Theology of Northern Spain.

The 10 challenges he analyzes in the book are: the new millennium, Europe, postmodernity, globalization, neo-paganism, new technologies, human evolution, New Age, interreligious dialogue and ecology.

Q: Are we living in a time of grace?

Father Berzosa: I firmly believe it. Not only because of the great figures that the Spirit is giving his Church and humanity at this […] beginning of a millennium, but also because of the very formidable challenges that are before us and that oblige — persons and communities — to purify and renew themselves and to return to their genuine Christian identity.

More than ever, we are being asked to proclaim Jesus Christ with freshness and realism.

Q: How is technology humanized?

Father Berzosa: By humanizing the man or woman who use it. Technology is not an end, it is a means.

Let us give, as an example, the world of cyberculture. What will be reflected is what a person bears and has in his heart. The great avenues and networks of communication, like the spectacular genetic discoveries, will lead to light or shadow, according to how they are programmed and manipulated by man.

We do not suffer from technical deficit, but from anthropological and ethical shortage.

This is how I dared to express it on one occasion in a poetic vein: «I have looked at it from the front and side. I have contemplated it with enthusiasm and without fear. A technical-mystical ecstasy has suddenly permeated my body and my mind. Now I know why the machine doesn’t speak about itself, or of You, my Lord: It is lacking a heart of flesh to be able to say its name and, above all, Your name.»

Q: From poetry to poverty — do you see the living of poverty as a sign of identity of Christians?

Father Berzosa: The answer is in the previous line. Poverty must be a means, a mediation, not an end.

True Christian freedom has three dimensions or proposals: freedom «from» attachments, in order to «live» values, «with» brothers.

If poverty is not lived to facilitate a personal life free of baggage and in solidarity with others, and above, is not always in tension and ready to live the only treasure — the Lord and the Gospel — poverty and the poor become tyranny, and Christianity is a mere NGO or philanthropy.

Moreover, this is what consecrated persons and many authentic communities experience in Christian living.

Q: The Church in the world — are modalities of presence or mediation left behind?

Father Berzosa: Mediating presence and present mediation — the choice or alternative between presence and mediation has been left behind.

In order to be understood, I will give some examples. What is required in public schooling: Catholic schools –presence — or Catholics — mediation? Catholic means of communication — presence — or Catholic newspapers in public mass media — mediation?

The answer can be none other than that already indicated by the Pope, since 1985, in the famous Loreto meeting: We need both realities.

A Christianity of mediation, underlining militancy, and a Christianity of presence, underlining community.

Q: How does the Church appear before the challenges of the new emerging culture?

Father Berzosa: It is not a question of reinventing the Church but of returning to the genuine sources of Christian Tradition, as the Second Vatican Council affirmed and, recently, Pope John Paul II in «Novo Millennio Ineunte» and «Ecclesia in Europa.»

Starting from the community of the historical Jesus, through Pentecost and the Church of the Acts of the Apostles there are these clues: an apostolic Church, praying and dialoguing, sacrament of communion for the mission, living Body of Christ, Temple of the Spirit, full of charisms for common edification, servant and defender of the dignity and rights of the human person, architect of peace and real solidarity.

More than ever we need living communities of reference and serious processes of Christian initiation.

I would dare ask the Spirit for a compass with four cardinal points for each Christian and for our communities — north: impassioned love of Jesus Christ; south: a living ecclesial community; east: spiritual experience and permanent formation; west: evangelizing commitment in all cultural sectors and environments.

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