Monday, April 21, 2008


“Apostolate,” from the Greek, apostolos, “one who is sent”, is almost synonymous with “Evangelization,” from eu-, “good”, and angelos, “messenger” (whence the Latin evangelium, "good news"). “Angels” and “Apostles” are all “sent”, but we use the first to refer to those servants of God who are purely spiritual creatures and the last to God’s “human” messengers (i.e., spiritual souls in material bodies). Often, “Apostles” specifically refers to the Twelve companions of our Lord and their successors, our Bishops.

Nowadays, “evangelization” is mostly used in the context of spreading the “Good News” (Old English, “good spell”), often taken to mean the Gospel proper (the four books of the “evangelists” Matthew, Mark, Luke and John), hence more likely to be the preferred term among non-Catholic, Bible-only Christians. On the other hand, in propagating the Catholic faith, which is certainly richer (because it is based on Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition, and makes demands on human conduct), the more common term would be “apostolate”.

In any event, “apostolate” means helping other people come closer to their “end”, their highest good, union with God. This is the greatest expression of love, the greatest service we can do, for our fellowmen. Thus, St. Josemaria writes: “Charity with everyone means, therefore, apostolate with everyone.” (Friends of God, 230)

The call to personal holiness is also a call to do apostolate. Just as love of God is inseparable from love of others, sanctity is inseparable from apostolate. Christian life, the path to eternal happiness, is one of ora et labora, contemplation and action, building our personal relationship with God and building the kingdom of God, grace and service, “communion and mission”, interior life and apostolate.

Indeed, God created us to know, love and serve Him, and so, to share in His eternal happiness. This is our end, the ultimate purpose of human existence, which is “holiness” (sanctity, perfection, beatitude) or union with God. Our life on earth is a journey towards this end; a constant struggle for sanctification. And while this holiness can only be definitively achieved in eternity, when we have left this temporal existence, it is a reality that we experience in this life to the extent that we are united with God in our dispositions, and most especially when we eat the Body of our Lord in the Holy Eucharist. Then we become one with Christ, Who is “perfect God and perfect man”, perfectus Deus, perfectus homo (Athanasian Creed).

The call to holiness is a call to become more and more like Christ, to imitate Christ, to be one with Christ, to become “other Christs, Christ Himself,” alter Christus, ipse Christus. Sanctification means, “He must increase; I must decrease” (Jn 3:30); so that, before time ends for each of us, we should be able to say with Saint Paul, “I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me.” (Gal 2:20)

But to be one with Christ means obeying His commandments: “Remain in me, as I remain in you. Just as a branch cannot bear fruit on its own unless it remains on the vine, so neither can you unless you remain in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit, because without me you can do nothing...Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love….This is my commandment: love one another as I love you.” (Jn 15:4-10)

The commandment to love one another “as I have loved you” is “a new commandment” (Jn 13:34) because it places love for others within the larger framework of love for God—as Christ loves us—and with a love, agape, that “seeks the good of the beloved” (Deus Caritas Est, No. 6). Thus, Christian charity must be understood precisely as “the theological virtue by which we love God above all things for his own sake, and our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God.” (CCC, No. 1822) The good of our neighbor, his eternal happiness, is his own union with God, which God wants. We know we love our neighbor when we want his eternal happiness: “in God and with God, I love even the person whom I do not like or even know.” (DCE, No. 18)

John Paul II teaches: “We return to the biblical image of the vine and the branches, which immediately and quite appropriately lends itself to a consideration of fruitfulness and life. Engrafted to the vine and brought to life, the branches are expected to bear fruit: ‘He who abides in me, and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit’ [Jn 15:5]. Bearing fruit is an essential demand of life in Christ and life in the Church. The person who does not bear fruit does not remain in communion: ‘Each branch of mine that bears no fruit, he (my Father) takes away’ [Jn 15: 2].” (Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles Laici, No. 32) The fruits demanded from each of us are those of love of God and neighbor, our interior life and apostolate.

The task of doing apostolate is always urgent. We do not know the exact time any person will die. And the greatest tragedy that can befall anyone is for him to leave this life without knowing and loving God, because such a soul can no longer be united with God forever; it is (self-) condemned to eternal misery. And since love of God and love of neighbor are really inseparable, our apostolic zeal is also a gauge of our interior life.


Friday, April 4, 2008


“I believe in Jesus Christ…He descended to the dead. On the third day, He rose again,” we recite in The Creed. The 50-day season of Easter is the commemoration of the fact of the Resurrection of our Lord. It is the greatest feast of Christendom because –

“The Resurrection of Jesus is the crowning truth of our faith in Christ, a faith believed and lived as the central truth by the first Christian community; handed on as fundamental by Tradition; established by the documents of the new Testament; and preached as an essential part of the Paschal mystery along with the cross” (CCC, No. 638)

“The truth of Jesus’ divinity is confirmed by his Resurrection.” (CCC, No. 653) Indeed, the Resurrection is the sign our Lord proffered when some asked for a sign (that He was the promised Messiah): “Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to him, ‘Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.’ He said to them in reply, ‘An evil and unfaithful generation seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it except the sign of Jonah the prophet. Just as Jonah was in the belly of the whale three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights.’” (Mt 12:38-40)

Jonah “remained in the belly of the fish three days and three nights….Then the Lord commanded the fish to spew Jonah upon the shore”. (Jon 2:1-11)

Jesus “was teaching his disciples and telling them, ‘The Son of Man is to be handed over to men and they will kill him, and three days after his death he will rise’”. (Mk 9:30; cf. Mt 16:21; 17:22-23; 20:17-19; Mk 8:31; 10:32-34; Lk 9:22; 18:31)

The very difficulty of believing in the Resurrection argues in favor of Christianity: “Even when faced with the reality of the risen Jesus the disciples are still doubtful, so impossible did the thing seem: they thought they were seeing a ghost. ‘In their joy they were still disbelieving and still wondering.’ [Lk 24:38-41] Thomas will also experience the test of doubt and St. Matthew relates that during the risen Lord’s last appearance in Galilee ‘some doubted.’ [Cf. Jn 20:24-27; Mt 28:17] Therefore the hypothesis that the Resurrection was produced by the apostles’ faith (or credulity) will not hold up. On the contrary their faith in the Resurrection was born, under the action of divine grace, from their direct experience of the reality of the risen Jesus.” (CCC, No. 644)

But it is not only Christ’s Divinity that the Resurrection proves: “Christ rose from the dead to show that he is true God and to teach us that we, too, shall rise from the dead” (Fr. M. Guzman, Question and Answer Catholic Catechism, No. 122) “All human beings will rise from the dead but only those who have been faithful to Christ will share in his glory” (Id. No. 123) “Christ’s Resurrection—and the risen Christ himself—is the principle and source of our future resurrection: ‘Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep….For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.’ [1 Cor 15:20-22]” (CCC, No. 655)

“All the dead will rise, ‘those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of judgment’ [Jn 5:29; cf. Dan 12:2]”. (CCC, No. 998) Thus, we also say in the Creed, “I believe…in the resurrection of the body”.

“But if Christ is preached as raised from the dead, how can some among you say there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then neither has Christ been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then empty is our preaching; empty, too, your faith.” (1 Cor 15:12-14)

One last point. The scripture accounts of the Resurrection would seem to indicate that our risen Lord was first seen by Mary Magdalene (Mt 28:1-10; Mk 16:9-11; Jn 20:1-18) as she was among the first to go to the tomb on the first day of the week, the day after the Sabbath. On the other hand –

“It is an ancient tradition of the Church that Jesus appeared first of all to his Mother in solitude. It could not have been otherwise because she is the first and principal co-redeemer of the human race, in perfect union with her son. Alone she would have been, since this appearance would be for a reason very different from the reason for the other appearances to the women and the disciples. He had to reassure and comfort them, and win them to him definitively in the faith. The Blessed Virgin…did not at any time cease to be in perfect union with the Blessed Trinity. Every last vestige of hope in the Resurrection of Jesus that remained on earth had been gathered into her heart….It is said that each year on this holy day [Easter Sunday] St. Thomas Aquinas counseled his hearers not to fail to congratulate the Blessed virgin on the Resurrection of her Son. And this is exactly what we do, beginning today, by reciting the Regina Coeli which will take the place of the Angelus during Eastertide.” (Fr. F. Fernandez, In Conversation with God, vol. 2, No. 47.3)