Evangelii Nuntiandi 79: Signs of Love

I think we can ask a fair question. Do people serve the Church for the sake of loving others as Christ did, or is the primary motivation their personal salvation? Pope Paul’s emphasis on love is not faddish. He has the apostle Paul on his side:

79. The work of evangelization presupposes in the evangelizer(s) an ever increasing love for those whom (they are) evangelizing. That model evangelizer, the Apostle Paul, wrote these words to the Thessalonians, and they are a program for us all: “With such yearning love we chose to impart to you not only the gospel of God but our very selves, so dear had you become to us.”[1 Thess 2:8; cf. Phil 1:8] What is this love? It is much more than that of a teacher; it is the love of a father; and again, it is the love of a mother.[Cf. 1 Thess 2:7-11; 1 Cor 4:15; Gal 4:19] It is this love that the Lord expects from every preacher of the Gospel, from every builder of the Church. A sign of love will be the concern to give the truth and to bring people into unity. Another sign of love will be a devotion to the proclamation of Jesus Christ, without reservation or turning back. Let us add some other signs of this love.

The first is respect for the religious and spiritual situation of those being evangelized. Respect for their tempo and pace; no one has the right to force them excessively. Respect for their conscience and convictions, which are not to be treated in a harsh manner.

Another sign of this love is concern not to wound the other person, especially if he or she is weak in faith,[Cf. 1 Cor 8:9-13; Rom 14:15] with statements that may be clear for those who are already initiated but which for the faithful can be a source of bewilderment and scandal, like a wound in the soul.

Yet another sign of love will be the effort to transmit to Christians not doubts and uncertainties born of an erudition poorly assimilated but certainties that are solid because they are anchored in the Word of God. The faithful need these certainties for their Christian life; they have a right to them, as children of God who abandon themselves entirely into His arms and to the exigencies of love.

These are difficult balances for anyone. Any minister must know when to push, and when to back off. One doesn’t look within to ponder, “I’ve been rather easy-going lately. I need to balance my approach so they will take me seriously.” I’ve heard people do this. I’ve fallen into the trap as a parent and as a minister. How does one assess not wounding another person? By knowing them. Knowing them as a friend and companion. A person who cannot or will not do this will never be fruitful as an evangelizer.

What are you readers seeing in this section? Only a few more posts to go in this series. Speak up, if you wish.


About catholicsensibility

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