VATICAN CITY, OCT. 17, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Benedict XVI says it is time to remember the beauty and centrality of the faith, to go deeper into it and strengthen it, and for this purpose he has convoked a "Year of Faith."
The Pope announced the special year, which will begin next October and conclude in November 2013, at the end of an event on the new evangelization held this weekend in the Vatican.
He then made a public announcement of the initiative before praying the midday Angelus with crowds who had gathered Sunday in St. Peter's Square.
The Holy Father suggested that the Year of Faith will be not so much a celebration as a missionary event: a chance to "remember the beauty and the centrality of the faith, the need to strengthen and deepen it, both at the personal and the community level, and to do this in a perspective that is not so much celebratory, but rather, missionary -- precisely in the perspective of the mission ad gentes and the new evangelization."
He spoke of how John Paul II promoted these two elements of mission -- both to those communities in which the Gospel has not taken root, and to those in which people have lost their zeal for the Gospel.
"These are aspects of the one mission of the Church," the German Pontiff said.
On Saturday, during his address to the so-called new evangelizers who were participating in the Vatican event, the Pope outlined a hopeful vision of evangelization, saying that "the Word of God continues growing and spreading."
He offered three reasons for this growth:
"The first is that the strength of the Word does not depend, in the first place, on our action, on our means, on our 'doing,' but on God, who hides his power under the signs of weakness. (...) We must always believe in the humble power of the Word of God and allow God to act!
"The second reason is that the seed of the Word, as the Gospel parable of the Sower narrates, falls also today on good soil that receives it and produces fruit. (...) In the world, although evil makes much noise, good ground continues to exist.
"The third reason is that the proclamation of the Gospel has effectively reached the ends of the earth; even in the midst of indifference, incomprehension and persecution, many continue, yet today, with courage, opening the heart and mind to receive the invitation of Christ to encounter him and become his disciples. Though not making noise, they are as the grain of mustard that becomes a tree, the leaven that ferments the dough, the grain of wheat that is destroyed to create the ear."
Force of truth
On Sunday, the Holy Father celebrated Mass for the participants of the new evangelization gathering.
Drawing from the Second Reading, from the Letter to the Thessalonians, he noted some of the characteristics of Paul's evangelization.
"He says to us first of all that one does not evangelize in an isolated way," the Pope said. "And he immediately adds another very important thing: that the proclamation must always be preceded, accompanied and followed by prayer. (...)
"The Apostle says he is very conscious of the fact that he has not chosen the members of the community, but God has. (...) Every missionary of the Gospel must have this truth always present: It is the Lord who touches hearts with his Word and his Spirit, calling persons to faith and to communion in the Church.
"Finally, Paul leaves us a very beautiful teaching, taken from his experience. He writes: 'for our Gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.' To be effective, evangelization needs the strength of the Spirit, to animate the proclamation and infuse in the one who bears it that 'full conviction' of which the Apostle speaks."
Benedict XVI concluded his homily by making his own St. Paul's words just proclaimed in the liturgy: "I thank God for all of you. And I assure you that I keep you in my prayers, conscious of your commitment in faith, your diligence in charity, and your constant hope in Jesus Christ our Lord."
"May the Virgin Mary, who was not afraid to answer 'yes' to the Word of the Lord, and, after having conceived him in her womb, went out full of joy and hope, always be your model and your guide," he told the new evangelizers. "Learn from the Mother of the Lord and our Mother to be humble and at the same time brave, simple and prudent; balanced and strong, not with the force of the world, but with that of truth."
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On ZENIT's Web page:
Full text of Saturday's discourse: www.zenit.org/article-33672?l=english
Full text of the Sunday homily: www.zenit.org/article-33673?l=english
Full text of the Angelus address: www.zenit.org/article-33676?l=english