WITNESS TO JESUS
Here are the reflections of Bishop Larry Silva on the “Convocation of Catholic Leaders: The Joy of the Gospel in America,” a gathering of 3,500, July 1-4, in Orlando, Florida, which the bishop attended with five others from Hawaii.
The Gospel of Jesus Christ our greatest joy!
This, I would say, was the message of the many liturgies, talks, prayer services and witnesses that made up the Convocation of Catholic Leaders, held in Orlando, Florida, July 1-4. It was sponsored by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops as a practical way to animate our concrete engagement in Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation “The Joy of the Gospel” (Evangelii Gaudium, Nov. 24, 2013). I was privileged to participate with five representatives from Hawaii and more than 3,000 others from throughout our vast nation.
Three themes stood out for me during the Convocation:
Jesus Christ is alive and continuing his work of redemption through his Body, the Church.
Jesus began his work over 2,000 years ago, but the risen Jesus, whom we encounter most especially in the Eucharist and the sacraments, continues to work his wonders even now through us who are baptized into him and anointed with the Holy Spirit.
I heard from people who turned away from sin and its emptiness to experience the joy that only Jesus can bring. I listened to the witness of those who reach out to the marginalized of our society, whether those be immigrants, prisoners and the poor.
We engaged in discussions of how we could be more effective in bringing the living Gospel of Jesus Christ to all.
The Gospel is good news and filled with joy.
While there was no attempt to hide the difficulties that afflict the Church (for example, sexual abuse of minors, infighting, racism), the clear message was that there is an urgency to our proclamation of the Good News that should take us beyond these divisions to make us more committed to taking the Gospel out to those who thirst for it, but who have not yet been touched by its power to heal and to save.
While we must be realistic about our own divisions and sins, to dwell on these can be a distraction from our real mission, a mission that is filled with joy in knowing the person of Jesus Christ.
There are many concrete ways to fulfill our mission and many people who are excited to be engaged in the mission.
Just as the conversations we had with our own Hawaii delegation in response to many of the sessions resulted in some concrete ideas and plans, such conversations were multiplied by all the dioceses, organizations and movements that participated.
We spoke of ways we can concretely engage the people of our diocese in the kinds of discussions we were privileged to have, so that we may be renewed as Stewards of the Gospel. Our diocesan pastoral plan includes many ideas and goals, and we will be hearing about others as time goes on.
As I gave thanks for the power of the Holy Spirit that was evident in the Convocation of Catholic Leaders in Florida, I also give thanks that the Spirit is alive and active here in Hawaii. We are blessed with so many dedicated people, and now it is time to refocus our efforts not simply on our own spiritual growth, but on our mission to share the joyful Gospel of Jesus with a world that is hungry for such joy.