Called to Change the World
4/29/2011by Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson
Early in his priestly ministry, then-Father Joseph Ratzinger told a group of university students, "In our generation, the Christian faith finds itself in a much deeper crisis than at any other time in the past." He added that "what really torments us today" is "the question about the Gospel of the Lord: What did he actually proclaim and bring among men?"
Four decades later, with the publication of the second volume of Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict XVI provides us with a rich opportunity to deepen our understanding of and encounter with the person and message of Jesus.
The pope has given the Church a great gift with his new book, which is subtitled Holy Week: From the Entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection. In his introduction, Pope Benedict writes, "I have attempted to develop a way of observing and listening to the Jesus of the Gospels that can indeed lead to a personal encounter."
Christianity is the religion of the Word of God who "became flesh and made his dwelling among us" (Jn 1:14). Jesus entered the world in a way that sought precisely this personal encounter. From his first moments of life, born in the poverty of a manger surrounded by animals, to his last, dying in agony surrounded by criminals, Jesus was fully engaged in the drama of human existence.
His ministry was a ministry of encounter: I want to see; I want to walk; my child is sick. He engaged not only the physical drama of human existence but also the moral drama: How many times do I forgive my brother? What do we do with the woman caught in adultery? Do we pay taxes to a corrupt and oppressive government?
We, too, are called to be a part of this human drama in both its physical and spiritual dimension by reflecting the face of Christ to everyone we meet. This is the "charity which evangelizes" of which Blessed John Paul II spoke.
As followers of Jesus, we are invited to walk this path. It is the path that Father Michael J. McGivney walked and the path that he encouraged us to walk as Knights of Columbus, supported by our principles of charity, unity and fraternity.
Our journey as Knights must continue this encounter with the Lord. But we can only reflect the face of Christ to those we meet if we have first deepened our personal encounter with him. His presence through Scripture and the Eucharist must illuminate our principles more profoundly. This must be especially true of the ceremonials of the Order — the honored tradition by which we introduce our way of practicing charity, unity and fraternity.
As Christians, we can neither blindly accept nor run away from the way things are. In his most recent apostolic exhortation, Verbum Domini, Pope Benedict writes, "The word of God makes us change our concept of realism" (10). We are called to change lives and to transform the world. As Knights of Columbus, we are called to do so by living more completely our principles and by bringing them to life in the lives of others.
At the conclusion of Jesus of Nazareth, the pope reflects on the power of the Lord that "comes in ways that change the world" through the work of his saints. After naming many of these well-known saints, Benedict notes that they "all opened up new ways for the Lord to enter into the confused history of their century as it was pulling away from him. His mystery, his figure enters anew — and most importantly, his power to transform men's lives and to refashion history becomes present in a new way."
We pray that Father McGivney will one day be listed as one of the saints through whom the Lord entered history "to transform men's lives," and that we, too, may be faithful witnesses.