On Sunday, May 1, Pope Benedict XVI will celebrate the beatification of Pope John Paul II. April 2nd marked the sixteenth anniversary of his death, a review of his charge to evangelization of the Church seems in order.
There is a constant awareness of the need for more vocations to religious life in the church today. But John Paul II issued a call to the lay people of the Church. In 1999, he wrote in his Ecclesia in America, “The renewal of the Church in America will not be possible without the active presence of the laity. Therefore, they are largely responsible for the future of the Church.” (44)
John Paul II knew a key to this new revitalization was the youth of the Church. In 1985, he initiated World Youth Days that continue today. The World Youth Days have provided the means for young people to show the world the potential and future of the Church, spreading their love of God and their faith to the global community.
No where can the lay person be more powerful than the area of social justice ministry. Justice ministry allows the outward acting out of the faith and the “clear and unequivocal proclamation of the person of Jesus Christ.” (66) Churches everywhere; Catholic, Protestant, all faiths, reach out to the underserved community and beyond. The simple act of “whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matt. 25:40), allows evangelism through human touch and example. Justice ministry provides the opportunity to reach the unchurched on their terms and opens the door of faith through human kindness and generosity.
Social justice ministry calls the faithful, young and old, to go a step further. Not just a call to help those needing a voice but a moral obligation to bring about change, to right wrongs. John Paul II was tireless in his efforts to spread the message of God’s goodness. In his inaugural homily, he said,
“Be not afraid. Open wide the doors to Christ. To his saving power open the boundaries of states, economic and political systems, the vast fields of culture, civilization and development. Be not afraid.”
In the world today, there are so many needing the healing touch of God’s grace. The Church must carry on John Paul II’s directive to “heed the call of Christ when you hear him saying to you: ‘Follow me! Walk in my path! Stand by my side! Remain in my love! There is a choice to be made: a choice for Christ and his way of life and commandment of love.’ “