We look at ourselves, the Church, and we discern important questions:
76. Let us now consider the very persons of the evangelizers.
It is often said nowadays that the present century thirsts for authenticity. Especially in regard to young people it is said that they have a horror of the artificial or false and that they are searching above all for truth and honesty.
These “signs of the times” should find us vigilant. Either tacitly or aloud- but always forcefully- we are being asked: Do you really believe what you are proclaiming? Do you live what you believe? Do you really preach what you live? The witness of life has become more than ever an essential condition for real effectiveness in preaching. Precisely because of this we are, to a certain extent, responsible for the progress of the Gospel that we proclaim.
Yes, bishops, clergy, and lay people are responsible, whether or not they’ve taken to heart the ordination admonition cited above. I would say that if anything, the distrust of authority is even more profound today. Charismatic leaders ply us, appealing to emotions. And when they disappoint, as they inevitably do, much is lost.
And so we ask questions of ourselves. Is our witness an extraordinary one?
“What is the state of the Church ten years after the Council?” we asked at the beginning of this meditation. Is she firmly established in the midst of the world and yet free and independent enough to call for the world’s attention? Does she testify to solidarity with people and at the same time to the divine Absolute? Is she more ardent in contemplation and adoration and more zealous in missionary, charitable and liberating action? Is she ever more committed to the effort to search for the restoration of the complete unity of Christians, a unity that makes more effective the common witness, “so that the world may believe”[Jn 17:21] We are all responsible for the answers that could be given to these questions.
The Eucharist makes the Church, and therefore, evangelization:
We therefore address our exhortation to our brethren in the Episcopate, placed by the Holy Spirit to govern the Church.[Cf. Acts 20:28] We exhort the priests and deacons, the bishops’ collaborators in assembling the People of God and in animating spiritually the local communities. We exhort the religious, witnesses of a Church called to holiness and hence themselves invited to a life that bears testimony to the beatitudes of the Gospel. We exhort the laity: Christian families, youth, adults, all those who exercise a trade or profession, leaders, without forgetting the poor who are often rich in faith and hope- all lay people who are conscious of their evangelizing role in the service of their Church or in the midst of society and the world. We say to all of them: our evangelizing zeal must spring from true holiness of life, and, as the Second Vatican Council suggests, preaching must in its turn make the preacher grow in holiness, which is nourished by prayer and above all by love for the Eucharist.[Presbyterorum Ordinis 13]
A needful reminder for the pessimists in our midst:
The world which, paradoxically, despite innumerable signs of the denial of God, is nevertheless searching for Him in unexpected ways and painfully experiencing the need of Him- the world is calling for evangelizers to speak to it of a God whom the evangelists themselves should know and be familiar with as if they could see the invisible.[Cf. Heb 11:27] The world calls for and expects from us simplicity of life, the spirit of prayer, charity towards all, especially towards the lowly and the poor, obedience and humility, detachment and self-sacrifice. Without this mark of holiness, our word will have difficulty in touching the heart of modern man. It risks being vain and sterile.
Why do we presume the best of the world? Because it is only when non-believers are disposed to God are they likely to hear the divine voice and respond to the invitation. The current strain of adversarial engagement is not only a sign of narcissism, but it is a ultimately self-defeating example of the antigospel.