What do you think of Pope Paul’s image of a central axis of evangelization”? And how would you answer the questions?
4. This fidelity both to a message whose servants we are and to the people to whom we must transmit it living and intact is the central axis of evangelization. It poses three burning questions, which the 1974 Synod kept constantly in mind:
- In our day, what has happened to that hidden energy of the Good News, which is able to have a powerful effect on (human) conscience?
- To what extent and in what way is that evangelical force capable of really transforming the people of this century?
- What methods should be followed in order that the power of the Gospel may have its effect?
Basically, these inquiries make explicit the fundamental question that the Church is asking herself today and which may be expressed in the following terms: after the Council and thanks to the Council, which was a time given her by God, at this turning-point of history, does the Church or does she not find herself better equipped to proclaim the Gospel and to put it into people’s hearts with conviction, freedom of spirit and effectiveness?
To me, the image suggests a sacramentality in which the Church is a sacrament of Christ to the world. But it’s also important for the message to come through clearly. In order for that to happen, the members of the Church must possess a certain transparency. The primary message is Christ, not the way in which he is presented.
That said, Pope Paul VI speaks of “energy” and “force” and “power.” An evangelical Church cannot rely on mere words of a page without a spirit behind them. Doesn’t that bring a certain conundrum? Perhaps not. One of the prime means of witnessing to the faith is the lived example of a Christian life. There is also the witness of an entire community demonstrating the faith. Effective evangelization can avoid the cult of celebrity by making the Christian community that axis through which Christ is communicated to seekers. The many and effective gifts of a whole community: that’s an inoculation against the twin dangers of clericalism and celebrity.