Evangelii Nuntiandi 18: Into All The Strata of Humanity

EN 18 offers a definition of evangelization:

18. For the Church, evangelizing means bringing the Good News into all the strata of humanity, and through its influence transforming humanity from within and making it new: “Now I am making the whole of creation new.”[Rev. 21:5; cf. 2 Cor 5:17; Gal 6:15] But there is no new humanity if there are not first of all new persons renewed by Baptism[Cf. Rom 6:4] and by lives lived according to the Gospel.[Cf. Eph 4:24-25; Col 3:9-10.] The purpose of evangelization is therefore precisely this interior change, and if it had to be expressed in one sentence the best way of stating it would be to say that the Church evangelizes when she seeks to convert,[Cf. Rom 1:16; 1 Cor 1:18, 2:4] solely through the divine power of the message she proclaims, both the personal and collective consciences of people, the activities in which they engage, and the lives and concrete milieu which are theirs.

How important are perspectives? The image of converting humanity from the inside out isn’t one usually attached to much modern chat about spreading the faith, even the notion of the “new” evangelization. But it certainly colors one’s expectations, doesn’t it? Most Catholics today seem to have retreated from an engagement with the culture, as if it taints us by our very association with it. Evangelization might be less successful than it could be if we insist, or presume the insistence on being disengaged from the “concrete milieu” of the times.

The definition seems pretty audacious to me. Our goal is Baptism. Not semi-Christian sympathizers. Our aim is a life transformed according to the pattern of the Gospel. We also rely on the “divine power of the (Gospel) message.” Not our own persuasive abilities.

Finally, notice the targets of our commentary: personal and collective consciences, activities, and the life and setting of those attracted to Christ. The post-conciliar Church fields a lot of criticism for a perception its message is mere milquetoast. But I don’t see that in EN 18. Do you?

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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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