In part two of EN 15, the message is clear–interior renewal for us who believe:
- The Church is an evangelizer, but she begins by being evangelized herself. She is the community of believers, the community of hope lived and communicated, the community of (filial) love, and she needs to listen unceasingly to what she must believe, to her reasons for hoping, to the new commandment of love. She is the People of God immersed in the world, and often tempted by idols, and she always needs to hear the proclamation of the “mighty works of God”[Cf. Acts 2:11; 1 Pt 2:9] which converted her to the Lord; she always needs to be called together afresh by Him and reunited. In brief, this means that she has a constant need of being evangelized, if she wishes to retain freshness, vigor and strength in order to proclaim the Gospel. The Second Vatican Council recalled[Cf. Ad Gentes 5] and the 1974 Synod vigorously took up again this theme of the Church which is evangelized by constant conversion and renewal, in order to evangelize the world with credibility.
My observation is that the best internal evangelization need not be specific to itself, but often blended with other aspects of parish life. Remember that one of the optimal ways of spreading the faith is by lived example. When a community can share the lived example of its members, that might be an effective part of the effort.
It implies that evangelization is far more than proselytizing. (“Be a Catholic!”) There are deeper qualities to it that acknowledge that the Church is tempted. They also suggest that we need to be reminded of our “reasons for hoping.” I liked that notion. I’m not quite sure I’ve grasped it. I think hope is the most difficult of the three main virtues.
I also like the explicit statement that the Church is always in need of conversion and renewal. It implies a certain upheaval in the life of the institution, but mature believers can handle that, I think. We need not fear upheaval. Looking at the lives of the saints, it seems a broad commonality that God shakes all of us up from time to time.
What do you think?