The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
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September 22, 2000 Issue
Foundations of Faith

Are you required to appear, for life?

You've been summoned to live, proclaim the Gospel

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

Summoned to Serve

Have you ever been served a summons?

Summons servers go out of their way to make certain the person whose name appears on the summons receives it. Then they leave quickly, so that person can't refuse it. Once received, you have no choice but to obey a summons. Failure to do so can result in arrest, jail and fines.

In our diocese, the current diocesan theme of "Summoned to Serve" is linked with the theme for the last season of Renew 2000: "Renewing for the 21st Century." Parish posters and billboards all over the area bear the two themes. Last week, we looked at what it means to "renew." This week, we look at what it means to be summoned.

In church terms, we often use the word "summoned" in exchange for "called" or even "invited." But, as we saw with the example of summons servers, the word "summon" has a bit more oomph behind it.

The dictionary tells us that "summon" means to convoke, to command, to call upon for a specific action. The word traces back to the Latin sum moneo, which means to remind, admonish, advise, warn, instruct and teach.

Sounds a bit more serious than just an invitation, doesn't it? In fact, if we look at our Renew theme of Renewing the 21st Century, we see that we have been called upon to perform a specific action. And that action is to bring the Good News to our world. Through four seasons of Renew 2000, we have experienced a community of love, conversion, evangelization and reconciliation. Now we are called -- summoned -- to take all of those experiences and share them with others.

Once converted, evangelized and reconciled, our renewed and transformed hearts are filled with God's love. And God's love always reaches out. We, therefore, must reach out to renew others.

That's exactly what Jesus did. And it's what he has entrusted us to do. He has served us with a summons to renew others. The very beginning of the Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us of this: "Those who with God's help have welcomed Christ's call and freely responded to it are urged on by love of Christ to proclaim the Good News everywhere in the world... All Christ's faithful are called to hand it on from generation to generation by professing the faith, by living it in fraternal sharing, and be celebrating it in liturgy and prayer" (no. 3).

All right, so we know we have been summoned. But do we remember how we were summoned? Or when the summons server arrived?

It happened when we first were welcomed into the family of the church. And we've been prepared for the job ever since.

"Holy Baptism is the basis for the whole Christian life. ... Through Baptism we are freed from sin and reborn as sons of God; we become members of Christ, are incorporated into the Church and made sharers in her mission. ..." (CCC, no. 1213).

And, just like a summons, once received, we cannot easily dismiss what we have been called upon to do. However, unlike a piece of paper carrying the threat of fines and jail if disobeyed, this summons gives us an array of wonderful promises.

"Coming in water, God washed us and grafted us into Christ," says Lutheran theologian, Rev. Daniel Erlander. "Our identity for all the days of our life is set! We are children of God, priests of the King, disciples of Christ, a servant people, a holy nation, the communion of saints, the followers of the Way, proclaimers of the wonderful deeds of God. Jesus' story becomes our story. Baptized into his death, we are raised to live as the Body of Christ in the world today."

That is what we have been summoned to do. That summons to live and proclaim the Good News is very powerful. So powerful that it has the force of law. In fact, the Catechism calls it the Law of the Gospel, or the New Law, linked to and fulfilling the law of the Covenant.

"The New Law is called a law of love because it makes us act out of love infused by the Holy Spirit, rather than from fear; a law of grace, because it confers the strength of grace to act, by means of faith and the sacraments; a law of freedom, because it sets us free from the ritual and juridical observances of the Old Law, inclines us to act spontaneously by the prompting of charity and, finally, lets us pass from the condition of a servant who 'does not know what his master is doing' to that of a friend of Christ ... or even the status of son and heir'" (CCC, no. 1972).

Our summons to serve and renew the 21st century is a powerful summons. But unlike a legal summons, which has the power to incarcerate us, this summons of the New Law has the power that frees us to become friends of Christ and heirs of God. Not a bad call to be served with. It's a summons we have to share.

(Sources: Catechism of the Catholic Church; Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary; the Perseus Project's Latin web site; The Rites of Christian Initiation)

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