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August 20, 2012 | Volume 87, Number 21


photo: Dr. Healy
Dr. Healy

New evangelization said to have Scriptural base

In opening her presentation on the Gospel of St. Mark during the recent Clergy Study Day, Dr. Mary Healy acknowledged there was a deep hunger among Catholics for knowledge of Scripture and familiarity with biblical language.

But, she pointed out that the 2010 Pew Forum Survey of Religious Knowledge found there appears to be an ignorance of Scripture among Catholics.

“U.S. Catholics scored lower in religious knowledge, including knowledge of the Bible and Christianity, than Protestants, Mormons, Jews, agnostics and atheists,” Dr. Healy said.

Dr. Healy, associate professor of Sacred Scripture at Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit, completed her doctorate in biblical theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome in 2000. She spoke to a group of priests, deacons and laity at three separate Clergy Study Day events in Newport News, Richmond and Roanoke.

She suggested that when people are “biblically illiterate,” they lose a sense of what she called the grand narrative that makes sense of all history from creation to the end of time.

“When they don’t have this general narrative, they are open to a feeling of purposelessness and uselessness,” Dr. Healy said, adding that some can even be prone to suicide.

“We’re in a crisis now, but we’re also living in a time of biblical renewal,” she said, adding that this is part of a “new springtime,” prophesied by Pope John Paul II.

Dr. Healy spoke of the New Evangelization which is meant to proclaim the Gospel and convert people to Christ.

“To evangelize, we have to start with our own hearts, become permeated with the Word of God, become familiar with its contents and pray every day,” she said. “As Scripture transforms our minds and hearts, it equips us to evangelize the culture.”

Warning of the pressure from the government to adopt a secular agenda, she illustrated an example of how far this has come.

Dr. Healy told a story of a Religious sister who was wearing a crucifix when she entered a pharmacy. A young American woman saw the symbolism and asked her “Who is the person on the bar? My grandmother used to have a bar like that.”

“That’s the world we’re living in today,” Dr. Healy said.

In reference to the Old Testament and New Testament, Dr. Healy made a link between the two. One is with the Lectionary cycle.

“On Sundays, feast days and most weekdays in special seasons, the Old Testament reading is selected to coordinate with the Gospel to show prophecy and fulfillment or theme brought to completion in Christ,” she explained. She referred to St. Jerome who said “To drink of the wine of the New Testament, you have to first drink water of the Old Testament.”

And she quoted St. Augustine who said, “The New Testament is hidden in the Old, and the Old is revealed in the New.”

With a simple definition of what is called the New Evangelization, Dr. Healy said it exhorts believers to “Go tell people the Good news.”

But faith cannot, by its own definition, be forced,” she asserted. “Otherwise, it’s not faith,” she said.

“The New Testament is hidden in the Old, and the Old is revealed in the New.”

“The way to make it more compelling is to have our lives revolve around a deliberate encounter with Jesus,” she said, then quoted Deacon Alex Jones who said, “You need to preach like you had breakfast with Jesus.”

Dr. Healy urged listeners to make it a priority to encounter Jesus in the most intimate way so that when we talk about Jesus, others will sense our enthusiasm and sincerity “that it really did happen and is happening in other people’s lives as well.”

In her description of St. Mark, Dr. Healy said Mark was criticized by Jewish leaders for eating with tax collectors and sinners. His behavior was considered scandalous.

“This gives a signal that something extremely important is going on with Jesus when he has a meal,” she said.

“I came not to call the righteous, but sinners,” Mark said. But who are righteous, listeners were asked.

Dr. Healy said Jesus’ mission is not “to applaud those who keep the law and condemn the rest.” Rather it is “to heal us all of devastation of sin — including sins of pride and judgmentalism.”

With the new evangelization, we need to move from maintenance to mission, Dr. Healy suggested.

“It is easier to preach to the people who are already here in church than to go out and be fishermen for the people who are not there,” Dr. Healy said. “But Jesus wants us to do both.”

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