EG 14: The Three Settings of the New Evangelization

Vasnetsov_Maria_MagdaleneThe last subsection of Evangelii Gaudium addresses “The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Faith.” As we tackle paragraphs 14 and 15 today and tomorrow, we’ll cover more of Pope Francis’s initial thoughts on evangelization. Let’s read:

14. Attentive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit who helps us together to read the signs of the times, the XIII Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops gathered from 7-28 October 2012 to discuss the theme: The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith. The Synod reaffirmed that the new evangelization is a summons addressed to all and that it is carried out in three principal settings.[Cf. Propositio 7]

People have noted that Pope Francis has pretty much dismissed the final reports of the synod, from which these apostolic exhortations have characteristically been drawn. (As in 1975’s Evangelii Nuntiandi.) But I’m sure he is well aware of the content of that material. We’re all just moving beyond it a bit, it seems.

EG’s first mention of liturgy, this in connection with the new evangelization:

In first place, we can mention the area of ordinary pastoral ministry, which is “animated by the fire of the Spirit, so as to inflame the hearts of the faithful who regularly take part in community worship and gather on the Lord’s day to be nourished by his word and by the bread of eternal life”.[Benedict XVI, Homily at Mass for the Conclusion of the Synod of Bishops (28 October 2012)] In this category we can also include those members of faithful who preserve a deep and sincere faith, expressing it in different ways, but seldom taking part in worship. Ordinary pastoral ministry seeks to help believers to grow spiritually so that they can respond to God’s love ever more fully in their lives.

Pope Francis acknowledges that some believers may live their faith without a regular grounding in the Eucharist. How can this be? Certainly believers in mission lands have done this for generations while preserving and cultivating their faith. And we must acknowledge that God’s grace will still be made available to those who cannot or do not take part in the Mass, or in other liturgies of the Church. The aim for pastoral ministry is still to reach out to such believers in the best way, and in ways in which people will respond to whatever invitation seems strongest, most credible, more harmonious.

The new evangelization is also intent on those who, though already baptized, have no active faith life at all:

A second area is that of “the baptized whose lives do not reflect the demands of Baptism”,[Benedict XVI, Homily at Mass for the Conclusion of the Synod of Bishops (28 October 2012)] who lack a meaningful relationship to the Church and no longer experience the consolation born of faith. The Church, in her maternal concern, tries to help them experience a conversion which will restore the joy of faith to their hearts and inspire a commitment to the Gospel.

Nothing surprising so far. We know these two prongs, especially the second, have been the focus of recent efforts in evangelization to the baptized. Perhaps some Catholics have been more willing to write off those who have intentionally separated themselves from the Sunday Eucharist or from a mainstream parish expression of faith. Clearly, both groups are on the Holy Father’s mind. So they should be on ours.

The primal meaning of evangelization is to present the Gospel to non-believers. This is the third prong for Pope Francis:

Lastly, we cannot forget that evangelization is first and foremost about preaching the Gospel to those who do not know Jesus Christ or who have always rejected him. Many of these are quietly seeking God, led by a yearning to see his face, even in countries of ancient Christian tradition. All of them have a right to receive the Gospel. Christians have the duty to proclaim the Gospel without excluding anyone.

The right belongs to the non-Christian. The responsibility is on the Church and on its believers. Let’s emphasize: to the exclusion of no one.

The duty to evangelize includes an important quality, transforming our personal joy (rooted in gratitude) into an attractive presentation for the non-believer.

Instead of seeming to impose new obligations, they should appear as people who wish to share their joy, who point to a horizon of beauty and who invite others to a delicious banquet. It is not by proselytizing that the Church grows, but “by attraction”.[Benedict XVI, Homily at Mass for the Opening of the Fifth General Conference of the Latin American and Caribbean Bishops (13 May 2007), Aparecida, Brazil]

The notion of “attraction” is part of the 12 Step tradition. I remember my meetings in which we recited the text that we do not promote adherents, but we attract them. Just as addicts attract others by their recovery and good health, Christians attract seekers and others by the quality of their lives and by their attitude toward living it.

This opening statement on the New Evangelization makes perfect sense to me. What about you?

About catholicsensibility

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