In an age characterized by a general decline in religious practice and faith, Christians are called to introduce the world to Jesus. The evangelization effort takes on a new urgency when one recognizes that Christendom, the age in which society’s imaginative vision is based in the Gospel, has ended. The Church exists in an apostolic age, characterized by a need to instead go out and preach the Gospel.
A packed church in Denver considered this very message with Msgr. James Shea, author of From Christendom to Apostolic Mission, a book that has informed the Archdiocese of Denver’s own evangelistic priorities during the synodal discernment process. Msgr. Shea delivered an engaging talk Oct. 6 at St. Vincent de Paul Parish.
“I’m here to tell you tonight that one of the worst things we can do,” Msgr. Shea told the crowd, “if we want to spend our whole lives gloomy and discouraged and crestfallen and heartbroken is for us to follow a utopian vision of the Church, because utopia always leads to dystopia. It makes promises that it cannot keep because the fundamental premise, the foundation of utopia, is a rejection of the Fall.”
“Christ, when he came,” Monsignor continued, “didn’t come to tinker around with human nature. He came to rescue us, to save us! He went for the jugular, for the prince of darkness and his kingdom and fruit, which is death, the first and primary result of the Fall. As a result, it’s important for us to reset our minds as to what the purpose of Christ’s mission was and what that means for the mission of the Church. Let’s start with Jesus himself and the mystery of the Cross.”
The Cross of Christ was at the center of Msgr. Shea’s remarks — and indeed, he challenged, it ought to be at the center of everything, most especially our worldview.
“Those who say that they are Christian, those who have received the Gospel, have a completely different and fundamentally variant understanding of how we judge the world, that is, according to the Cross of Christ,” Msgr. Shea shared. “The Cross of Christ is the measure of every human life. If we want to understand what’s happening in our lives, what’s going on in the world, the nature of the Church, which we love, we have to take it to the Cross of Christ. So let’s do that and see what we find!”
It is through the Cross that everything makes sense; it is through the Cross that humanity is saved, Monsignor stressed to the hundreds of faithful in attendance, many of whom work at various parishes, archdiocesan offices and independent ministries that call Denver home.
“Jesus comes into the world to take upon himself all human disease. Every wretchedness, every wickedness, every moral depravity, Jesus takes upon himself and he bears it to the Cross. He becomes sick because of the disease he accepts into his body. Then, to the deep and utter surprise of the Enemy, because of his divine nature, through the Resurrection, he overcomes all of it. Because by receiving all of the disease of broken humanity into his body, Jesus generates the immunity in his blood. And that immunity he dispenses to a world in need. That’s how he saves us.”
Those in attendance certainly left with a lot to think about, reflect on and pray over after the hour-long talk and exhortation.
“I was really inspired by a lot of what Monsignor had to say today,” said Stephany Anderson, a missionary with the Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS). “I did not realize that the foundational error of believing that we don’t have original sin really spoke into things, but the more he spoke, it was like, ‘Wow. That really gives you an understanding of the culture we grew up in.’ I have a lot to mull over.”
“It was great to have so many people of our Denver Catholic community gathered for such a powerful message,” said Judy Dunn, one of the organizers of the event.
“It’s quite rare to hear a talk so profound that one walks away with a new and deeper understanding of God’s plan for the salvation of his world,” Father John Hilton, pastor of St. Vincent de Paul Parish, told the Denver Catholic, “Our time with Msgr. Shea was this such experience.”
In summary, Msgr. Shea reminded the crowd that there is plenty of reason for hope.
“The Church is going to be fine,” he said by way of conclusion, “because the vast majority of the Church is already secure in Heaven. The Church is the saints around the throne of God, the Blessed Mother, the apostles who still rule the Church, those who’ve gone before us. You and I know the people who’ve died don’t just forget about us; they are praying for us, in every age. We’re the smallest and the least impressive part of the Church, those of us who are kind of still moving around down here below. The Church is quite secure.”