The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
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September 15, 2000 Issue
Foundations of Faith

How can a brand-new century be renewed

Through Christ, we have the power to transform creation

Renew 2000, Season V: Renewing for the 21st Century
By Patricia Kasten
Compass Associate Editor

We are about to enter the last season of Renew 2000. The theme for this final season is "Renewing for the 21st Century."

At first, this theme may seem a bit strange -- after all, what needs to be renewed about something as new as the 21st Century? (Of course, some would argue that the 21st century is so new that it hasn't even begun, but that's fodder for a different article.)

But if we examine things further, what has really changed between today and Dec. 31, 1999? Did anything besides the calendar get dramatically transformed because it was 2000 and not 1999? Is there a new -- or renewed -- order to things today?

That tells us something -- and leads to another question. Did anything dramatically change 2,000 years ago on the night a baby boy was born in Bethlehem? Did the world look any different the next morning?

Probably not. But that baby boy transformed the world -- indeed, all creation -- for all time.

Jesus only lived and taught in a geographic area about the size of Massachusetts. Yet, from that small area and his personal contact with only a small group of people, the world was transformed. By the power of the Spirit, Jesus' message of the Gospel spread from Jerusalem to Syria to Greece to Ethiopia and to Rome itself. By 380, just over three centuries after Christ's death and resurrection, Christianity had gone from being an offshoot of Judaism to the official religion of the most powerful empire on Earth. Talk about making something new.

Now, the word "renew" doesn't really mean "to make new." The dictionary says it means "to become new." And, for Christ, that "becoming new" meant bringing about the Kingdom of God in a new way that fulfills God's plan for all creation. The promise of the Kingdom may have existed from the first moment of creation, but it had never been fully realized in human existence. With Christ, though, the Kingdom of God began to break fully into our human world -- and it transforms all who encounter it.

While Christianity was, for a long time, an official state religion, we in the 21st century are not asked to worry about state religions. We are, however, asked -- summoned by the Spirit -- to renew, and thus transform, the world.

We are asked, really required, to reveal the Kingdom. Vatican II reminded us of that: "At all times, the Church carries the responsibility of reading the signs of the time and of interpreting them in the light of the Gospel ... she should be able to answer the ever recurring questions which humans ask about the meaning of this present life and of the life to come, and how one is related to the other" (Gaudium et Spes, no 4).

And that is what this final season of Renew 2000 asks us to do: "reflect on our call to invite others to share with us in restoring the world in Christ," to relate our lives to the power of the Kingdom. In doing so, we will renew the century.

Two thousand years ago, Jesus came into the world with a mission. "Amid the sin and frustration of our fallen world, Jesus envisioned a new creation based on the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the community of faith. Those who would follow him would receive power to overcome whatever separated them from God and each other" (Renew 2000, Season V booklet).

Over the past two years and four seasons of Renew 2000, we have looked at what it means to have that power of the Spirit, to have the power to renew creation -- to fill it with new life -- as Jesus envisioned.

* In Season One, we looked at God, Community of Love. As John told us, "God is love" (1Jn 4:8).That love is creative and life-giving and all who share in it, through Christ, receive the creative and life-giving power to renew creation. "By sending his only Son and the Spirit of Love ... God has revealed his innermost secret: God himself is an eternal exchange of love, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and he has destined us to share in that exchange" (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 221).

* In Season Two, we looked at Conversion. Conversion is a form of renewal because conversion means to turn one's heart back to God. In the New Testament, the Greek word used for this turning back to God, to a renewed state of oneness with God, is metanoia. Abp. Daniel Pilarczyk of Cincinnati, a former Greek instructor, explains metanoia as "a change of mind and heart, altering one's mindset toward whole new ways of thinking and acting." So conversion means that both renewal (in one's relationship with God) and transformation takes place. And this transformation of self receives, through the Spirit of Christ, the power to renew and transform the world.

* Renew 2000 Season Three focused on Evangelization. Translated from the Greek, "evangelization" means "to bring the Good News." Once converted, our renewed and transformed hearts are filled with God's love. And God's love, a communitarian love, always reaches out. Our converted hearts, therefore, much reach out to renew others. As the U.S. Bishops said, "The Gospel must overflow from each heart until the presence of God transforms all human existence'" (Study Guide for "Go and Make Disciples").

In Season Four, we looked at Reconciliation. Reconciliation is reunion -- a renewal of what once was and a rebirth of what was meant to be. The Catechism tells us that Christ became human to reconcile us with God (no. 457) and also "so that man, by entering into communion with the Word of God ... might become a son of God" (no. 460).

Becoming God's very own sons and daughters. Here we find the secret to renewal -- in this or any century. Conversion reconciles us to God. Evangelization unites us and reconciles us to each other. And all of this is brought about by God, through Christ, in the power of the Spirit.

And that is exactly how we'll go about renewing the new century.

(Sources; Catechism of the Catholic Church; Guadium et Spes; Renew 2000; Salt of the Earth web site; and the New Webster's Dictionary)

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