Evangelii Nuntiandi 51: Many Means To One End

The proclamation of the Gospel isn’t about the gifts, abilities, or even the opinions of the evangelist. The focus is not on the minister, but on the hearers, or those potentially open to hearing about Jesus. Pope Paul first alludes to the Acts of the Apostles, in which people were drawn to Christ by innumerable methods. It should be a clue that some methods, which worked for some listeners, were utter failures in other locations. Rather than blame seekers, believers could use their brains, assessing what message is likely to take root.

51. To reveal Jesus Christ and His Gospel to those who do not know them has been, ever since the morning of Pentecost, the fundamental program which the Church has taken on as received from her Founder. The whole of the New Testament, and in a special way the Acts of the Apostles, bears witness to a privileged and in a sense exemplary moment of this missionary effort which will subsequently leave its mark on the whole history of the Church.

She carries out this first proclamation of Jesus Christ by a complex and diversified activity which is sometimes termed “pre-evangelization” but which is already evangelization in a true sense, although at its initial and still incomplete stage. An almost indefinite range of means can be used for this purpose: explicit preaching, of course, but also art, the scientific approach, philosophical research and legitimate recourse to the sentiments of the human heart.

On a parish level, but at least on a diocesan level, those serious about evangelization must be prepared to use all these means. A good measuring stick for the “new” evangelization is how a diocese or other entity employs art, science, philosophy, and emotion. Other factors not mentioned here: psychology, diplomacy, family connections, the new media. The Holy Father was right: the range of means is very wide indeed. All will be needed, as people are open to God in many different ways, some of which we may have very little expertise to offer.

About catholicsensibility

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