Evangelii Nuntiandi 20: Engage the Culture, But Aim for the Person

The last few sections have treated evangelization in something of an abstract or theological way. Pope Paul VI suggests it’s essential to begin and end with the person, and their relationships:

20. All this could he expressed in the following words: what matters is to evangelize (human) culture and cultures (not in a purely decorative way, as it were, by applying a thin veneer, but in a vital way, in depth and right to their very roots), in the wide and rich sense which these terms have in Gaudium et Spes,[Cf. 53] always taking the person as one’s starting-point and always coming back to the relationships of people among themselves and with God.

The relationship with culture remains strained. An optimist would say interesting and challenging:

The Gospel, and therefore evangelization, are certainly not identical with culture, and they are independent in regard to all cultures. Nevertheless, the kingdom which the Gospel proclaims is lived by (people) who are profoundly linked to a culture, and the building up of the kingdom cannot avoid borrowing the elements of human culture or cultures. Though independent of cultures, the Gospel and evangelization are not necessarily incompatible with them; rather they are capable of permeating them all without becoming subject to any one of them.

The split between the Gospel and culture is without a doubt the drama of our time, just as it was of other times. Therefore every effort must be made to ensure a full evangelization of culture, or more correctly of cultures. They have to be regenerated by an encounter with the Gospel. But this encounter will not take place if the Gospel is not proclaimed.

Despite the strain, we always have to try. The believer is never released from this obligation.

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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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