Pope Paul lays out the purpose of this document, as developed from the input of the bishops, and lensed through his own interpretation of the need. Or rather, “urgency,” of the situation.
Remember yesterday’s three questions?
- (W)hat 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?
This is how Paul VI began to respond:
5. We can all see the urgency of giving a loyal, humble and courageous answer to this question, and of acting accordingly.
In our “anxiety for all the Churches,”[2 Cor 11:28] we would like to help our brethren and sons and daughters to reply to these inquiries. Our words come from the wealth of the Synod and are meant to be a meditation on evangelization. May they succeed in inviting the whole People of God assembled in the Church to make the same meditation; and may they give a fresh impulse to everyone, especially those “who are assiduous in preaching and teaching,”[1 Tim 5:17] so that each one of them may follow “a straight course in the message of the truth,”[2 Tim 2:15] and may work as a preacher of the Gospel and acquit (themselves) perfectly of (their) ministry.
Such an exhortation seems to us to be of capital importance, for the presentation of the Gospel message is not an optional contribution for the Church. It is the duty incumbent on her by the command of the Lord Jesus, so that people can believe and be saved. This message is indeed necessary. It is unique. It cannot be replaced. It does not permit either indifference, syncretism or accommodation. It is a question of people’s salvation. It is the beauty of the Revelation that it represents. It brings with it a wisdom that is not of this world. It is able to stir up by itself faith – faith that rests on the power of God.[Cf. 1 Cor 2:5] It is truth. It merits having the apostle consecrate to it all his time and all his energies, and to sacrifice for it, if necessary, his own life.
This is a “meditation on evangelization.” Let’s keep this in mind as we follow the remainder of the eighty-two numbered sections. Paul VI gave us not so much a set of laws and commands, but more a structure on which to build our own best efforts. Those best efforts, the pope suggests, requires a “fresh impulse” behind a message that is faithful to Christ.
That said, this third parargraph contains a list of qualities with some pretty strong language, doesn’t it? Evangelization is a duty, necessary, unique, irreplaceable, not indifferent, not syncretism, not bending to others, salvific, beautiful, wise, stirring, truthful, and wholly apostolic.