Evangelii Nuntiandi 59: Who Evangelizes?

With thissection we move from the topic of who is the target of evangelization and delve into the persons who possess the mission of doing it.

59. If people proclaim in the world the Gospel of salvation, they do so by the command of, in the name of and with the grace of Christ the Savior. “They will never have a preacher unless one is sent,”[Rom 10:15] wrote he who was without doubt one of the greatest evangelizers. No one can do it without having been sent.

But who then has the mission of evangelizing?

The Second Vatican Council gave a clear reply to this question: it is upon the Church that “there rests, by divine mandate, the duty of going out into the whole world and preaching the gospel to every creature.”[Dignitatis Humanae 13; Lumen Gentium 5; Ad Gentes 1] And in another text: “…the whole Church is missionary, and the work of evangelization is a basic duty of the People of God.”[Ad Gentes 35]

We have already mentioned this intimate connection between the Church and evangelization. While the Church is proclaiming the kingdom of God and building it up, she is establishing herself in the midst of the world as the sign and instrument of this kingdom which is and which is to come. The Council repeats the following expression of St. Augustine on the missionary activity of the Twelve: “They preached the word of truth and brought forth Churches.”[Saint Augustine, Enarratio in Ps 44:23: CCL XXXVIII, p. 510; cf Ad Gentes 1]

In a word, everybody. In EN 60, we will read that this is not an individual mandate. It operates with an intimate connection to the Church as a whole. And from there, we will look at the responsibility of “Churches,” of their continuing apostolic task to spread the Gospel everywhere.

But for now, it is sufficient to say that the Vatican II tradition (as stated in Ad Gentes 35) is that the entire People of God are responsible. As we’ve already read, individuals, by their life’s witness. But also their support of the particular charisms that engage new believers. I would think that would include cultivating their own gifts, as well as helping advance the gifts of others.

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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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