The New Evangelization: Contemplating Truth in the Light of the Cross

Authored by Dr. Joseph Hollcraft in Issue #34.1 of The Sower

Approximately 5 years ago, while teaching at a Conference on Catechetics, I was approached by an older gentleman who asked me a very simple question: “What is truth and what does it have to do with what we teach?” I responded, simply—“everything, because the ‘what’ you speak of is a ‘Who’—the Person of Jesus Christ’. To this day, I recall leaving that dialogue with a renewed interest in probing the question of truth, in particular, the importance of truth as it relates to catechesis. Five years later, I am still probing in light of the new evangelization, and my studies have me going back to the immensely popular figures of Blessed John Paul II and the Pope Benedict XVI.

Pope Benedict XVI, while reflecting into the meaning of Pilate’s inquiry: “what is truth?” helps bring into focus the essence and meaning of truth; what is at the heart of what we are contemplating. He states: “In Christ, God entered the world and set up the criterion of truth in the midst of history (Christ as the Truth). Truth is outwardly powerless in the world…Yet, in His very powerlessness, he is powerful: only thus, again and again, does truth become power”.[ii] For Pope Benedict XVI, the cross is the definitive sign of truth, because it is the definitive sign of God’s powerlessness, which ‘again and again’ produces power.

Interestingly, it was on his first Apostolic Pilgrimage to Poland that John Paul II used the phrase “new evangelization” for the first time during his pontificate. On that summer day in Mogila, Poland, John Paul II celebrated Mass at the Shrine of the Holy Cross. While reflecting upon the meaning of the cross in Polish history, in particular at the turn of the second millennium, he stated: “Where the cross is raised, there is the sign that evangelization has begun...With it we were given a sign that on the threshold of the new millennium, in these new times, these new conditions of life, the Gospel is again being proclaimed. A new evangelization has begun, as if it were a new proclamation, even if in reality it is the same as ever. The Cross stands high over the revolving world”.[iii] In these words, John Paul II has a challenge to all the Christian faithful setting out to respond to the Church’s call to proclaim the truth in the spirit of the new evangelization: embrace the cross as the epicenter to the new evangelization.

So we have this call ‘to commit to reflect upon the meaning of truth’ along with this obligation to see the cross as a principle constituent to the new evangelization and profound revelation of truth. What does all of this mean for us as Catholics and catechists? We must seek the proper attitude that is necessary for these interlocking towers of the cross and the truth to take root in our heart. So where are we to turn? The first beatitude.

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