Evangelii Nuntiandi 23: Full Development

How do we assess the development of faith? By the knowledgeable and accurate presentation of the evangelizer, the catechist, or the pastoral minister? Nope. When the seeker has “adhered” to a new way of life:

23. In fact the proclamation only reaches full development when it is listened to, accepted and assimilated, and when it arouses a genuine adherence in the one who has thus received it. An adherence to the truths which the Lord in His mercy has revealed; still more, an adherence to a program of life – a life henceforth transformed – which He proposes. In a word, adherence to the kingdom, that is to say, to the “new world,” to the new state of things, to the new manner of being, of living, of living in community, which the Gospel inaugurates. Such an adherence, which cannot remain abstract and unincarnated, reveals itself concretely by a visible entry into a community of believers. Thus those whose life has been transformed enter a community which is itself a sign of transformation, a sign of newness of life: it is the Church, the visible sacrament of salvation.[Cf. Lumen Gentium 1, 9, 48; Gaudium et Spes 42, 45; Ad Gentes, 1] Our entry into the ecclesial community will in its turn be expressed through many other signs which prolong and unfold the sign of the Church. In the dynamism of evangelization, a person who accepts the Church as the Word which saves[Cf. Rom 1:16; 1 Cor 1:18] normally translates it into the following sacramental acts: adherence to the Church, and acceptance of the sacraments, which manifest and support this adherence through the grace which they confer.

Baptism and full initiation is the most public, the most visible sign of the completion of evangelization. As is true with the proclamation of the Gospel that follows life’s witness, the preparation for initiation and its celebration requires the distinguishing and discernment of a community’s gifts. As always, I caution that these stages are less distinct periods, but add-ons in the Christian experience. In other words, everyone always and everywhere gives good witness whether seekers and inquirers are watching or not. We commit ourselves to listen to the proclamation of teaching for ever. We renew our experience of baptism, Eucharist, and confirmation every time we celebrate Mass. It is important, vital even, to communicate that sacraments are not “graduation events” from a period of catechesis.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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