MENDHAM Bishop Serratelli issued a challenge to all Catholics — especially those who seem uncomfortable aligning themselves with the beliefs of the faith or witnessing to the Gospel in a world increasingly hostile to Christian values.
He told them to take a cue from St. Peter in his courage to evangelize. Peter had no fear in boldly proclaiming the name of Jesus — whom people scorned and rejected after his Crucifixion — as he performed his first miracle after Pentecost and the first miracle of any Apostle, as recorded by Scripture.
That’s what Bishop Serratelli declared on March 4, as he concluded a Lenten mission at St. Joseph Church here, reflecting on the Acts of the Apostles and how it applies to Christians today. On Monday, March 2, the bishop spoke about Pentecost and the gifts of the Holy Spirit and talked about Peter and his miracles during the final session. The Morris County parish cancelled the Tuesday, March 3 session, due to inclement weather.
“Today, society values tolerance and accepts all views as if they are equal. There is good in all religions, but they are but a mere reflection of Christ. He is God’s answer to all of our need to be saved. All other religions are the stirring of the human heart, searching for God, but the Judeo-Christian faith is the effort of God, looking for us to find his prodigal children to bring them home,” said Bishop Serratelli, who noted that our Catholic beliefs influence how society views such important issues as Right to Life, traditional marriage and freedom of religion. “The Church needs apostolic boldness — speaking the truth and living the truth. We need not fear the opposition today because the Spirit of truth dwells in us. We need not be ashamed of the truth that we believe. We need to be bold in proclaiming the name that will never leave the world the same,” he said.
Today, Catholics would do well in following the dynamic example of Peter. Acts 3 tells the story of Peter and John walking up to the temple in Jerusalem and coming upon a beggar, who was lame. They stopped to care for the crippled man, following the compassionate healing ministry of the Messiah, the bishop told the 75 faithful, who attended the Lenten mission, which included time for prayer.
“Pity touched the hearts of Peter and John and love moved their hands. We must recognize the dignity of every person and the right for them to be loved and to be helped. Like the disciples, we need to become personally involved, as much as we can, in the suffering of our brothers and sisters,” said Bishop Serratelli, noting that our reaching out to others in need also shows that “people can come to the Church for real help.”
Next in the Scripture account, Peter announces his poverty by declaring, “I have neither silver and gold, but I will give you what I have.” This signifies that Peter “left everything behind to follow Jesus” and that he has “something better” than material wealth for the crippled man, the bishop said.
“God gives us gifts to share with others. We must use our gifts [including our finances] to alleviate the suffering of others. We need to put our charity into practice,” Bishop Serratelli said. “But we can only give what we have.”
Peter tells the lame man, “I heal you in the name of Jesus Christ, the Nazarene.” Peter commanded the man to “walk.” Filled with the Holy Spirit, Peter was not afraid to proclaim the name of Christ. After, the man jumped up with joy, ran into the temple and began praising God. The glorious sight amazed everyone there, Bishop Serratelli said.
“Jesus’ name was known here on Earth through the work of his disciples at the Temple. Jesus’ name is active and alive after Pentecost,” said Bishop Serratelli, noting that Acts records Peter and, later, Paul as performing miracles.
Evangelization by the disciples was critical in the ancient world, because the Romans merely added Jesus to the list of the other gods whom they worshipped. But this runs contrary to the Gospel, which demands that Jesus command the one and only place in our hearts and lives, he said.
“But there is no other name [but Jesus’] by which we are saved. This is the fundamental truth: that Christ is the one Redeemer and that the Church is his instrument of salvation for all,” Bishop Serratelli said. “Many Catholics today are uncomfortable saying that there is one Savior, who saves us and who formed one Church.”
After the reflection, Bishop Serratelli fielded some questions from the audience. Then, Msgr. Joseph Anginoli, St. Joseph’s pastor, thanked the bishop for his “special presence” last week at the parish. “You have given us much to think about and pray about this Lent on our journey to Easter,” said Msgr. Anginoli, also the diocesan judicial vicar, who last year invited Bishop Serratelli to present a mission at St. Joseph’s and who noted that he had given a Lenten mission at the parish a few years ago.
During a reception light reception after Bishop Serratelli’s concluding reflection, Mark Tosso, St. Joseph’s youth minister, who recited prayers during the short service, called the bishop “a great teacher,” seasoned by many years serving as a Scripture scholar and seminary professor.
“Bishop Serratelli is so down to earth and relevant,” Tosso said. “He spoke clearly and firmly about bringing us in touch with the zeal of the Apostles and how to apply that to our own lives.”