Evangelii Nuntiandi 3: The Modern Message

The Gospel is not mutable, and Christ doesn’t change, but Paul VI correctly assesses that 1973-75 is a moment different from other moments of history. The point of examining evangelization anew is not to change the message but to alter old practices that no longer work. Let’s read: 

3. We have stressed the importance of this theme of evangelization on many occasions, well before the Synod took place. On June 22, 1973, we said to the Sacred College of Cardinals: “The conditions of the society in which we live oblige all of us therefore to revise methods, to seek by every means to study how we can bring the Christian message to modern (people). For it is only in the Christian message that modern (people) can find the answer to (their) questions and the energy for (their) commitment of human solidarity.”[Paul VI, Address to the College of Cardinals (22 June 1973): AAS 65 (1973), p. 383] And we added that in order to give a valid answer to the demands of the Council which call for our attention, it is absolutely necessary for us to take into account a heritage of faith that the Church has the duty of preserving in its untouchable purity, and of presenting it to the people of our time, in a way that is as understandable and persuasive as possible.

The presentation of Christ must be understandable, not to mention persuasive. In order for that to happen, people must be prepared to study and consider the situation in which the seeds of first faith are sown. Perhaps the language must change. Perhaps emphases are altered.

What of Paul VI’s mention of “commitment of human solidarity”? What does that mean? My take is that we should be confident that the human longing for God is universal. If some people, even those who were once believers, are alienated from Christianity, we can and should consider how to touch their desire–what we believe is a basic human aspect–in such a way as to bring them to the message of Christ. Or rather, to bring that message to them: where they are in life.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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