It was a joy to be with so many of you at our Religious Education Congress. I came away inspired by your passion to pass on the faith to our young people and to share the Gospel with our neighbors.

Our conversations at Congress were deep and far-reaching. We all recognize that as our society becomes more secularized, we face many obstacles to living our faith and proclaiming it.

We talked about the cultural pressures on believers to regard their faith as something private, something we keep to ourselves.

We also talked about the growing influence of technology, especially “smartphones” and social media, not only on our young people and each of us, but also on our society.

I think we all agree that in this environment, we cannot take the handing on of our Catholic faith for granted.

The question that Our Lord asked in the Gospel — “But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” — defines our mission.

At the heart of this mission is Jesus himself.

Our faith is an encounter with the divine Person, Jesus of Nazareth, who suffered and died for you and for me, and for each and every person who ever was and ever will be.

Our faith is a friendship with this Jesus who now, risen from the dead, lives with us and walks with us on our journey. This Jesus who is the way, and the truth, and the life.

Over and over in the Gospels, we see how the encounter with Jesus changes people’s lives. His Word burned in their hearts, no one was left untouched by his love!

We remember the woman at the well, Zacchaeus the tax collector, Mary Magdalene, the fishermen by the sea, Andrew and Peter, James and John.

These men and women were transformed, their hearts and their lives were changed forever by the presence and love of Jesus.

Our task right now is to go deeper in our own love and friendship with Jesus and to seek out new ways to bring others to that life-changing encounter with Jesus and his saving grace.

It is true that we face unique challenges as we seek to share our faith and proclaim Jesus in this culture.

But as Pope Francis has said, “Let us not say, then, that things are harder today; they are simply different. But let us learn also from the saints who have gone before us, who confronted the difficulties of their own day.”

In every age, the saints find a way to work with God’s grace and to proclaim the good news that God is alive, that he is our Creator and our Father, and that he has entered into our world to speak with us, to love us, and to be our friend and Savior.

Our neighbors are longing to hear this good news! Our fellow Catholics, too, are longing to be renewed in the beautiful truth of God’s love.

In our day, we understand that being Catholic is not only a cultural inheritance or an identity that we are “born into.”

Whether we are raised in a Catholic home or become Catholic later in life, for every one of us, following Jesus Christ must become a spiritual decision that we make, an act of conversion that we renew again and again.

As a Church, part of our mission is also to “convert the baptized,” inspiring our brothers and sisters to continue in their conversion to Christ, to continue to make that daily decision to follow Jesus, conforming their lives to his, and loving him and loving others as he calls us to love.

Since Congress, I have been thinking about a line from the Gospel story of the Transfiguration.

After seeing the astonishing vision of the Lord transfigured, his face shining like the sun, his clothes dazzling white; after hearing the voice of God speaking from heaven; the apostles were lying face down on the ground, and very much afraid, the Gospel tells us. 

Jesus tells them to rise and not to fear. The Gospel continues: “When the disciples raised their eyes, they saw no one else but Jesus alone.”

No one else but Jesus alone can tell us the truth about our lives. No one else but Jesus alone can show us the way to happiness and the way to heaven.

So, as we continue this week on our Lenten journey, pray for me and I will pray for you.

May holy Mary, the mother of God, be with us, and give us new creativity and new courage in our service of the Church’s mission of bringing our world to Jesus.