The last section of this chapter is devoted specifically to the church’s mission of evangelization – the what and the how.
Paragraph 30 presents a summary of the message: God’s love, “good news for the poor and sinners,” and above all “the Gospel which is Christ himself.” The message is Christ.
And so, they write:
We announce to our peoples that God loves us, that his existence is not a threat to the human being, that he is near us with the saving and liberating power of his Kingdom, which accompanies us in tribulation, that he constantly sustains our hope in the midst of all trials.
The last sentence of the paragraph is very pointed:
We Christians are bearers of good news for humankind, not prophets of doom.
The message is more about grace than about the pains of hell.
Paragraph 31 presents the “how” of evangelization: being poor with the poor, taking the path of downward mobility as Jesus did:
The church must fulfill its mission by following the footsteps of Jesus and adopting his attitudes (cf. Mat 9:35-36). Though he was Lord, he made himself servant and obedient even to death on the cross (cf. Phil 2:8); though he was rich, he chose to be poor for us (cf. 2 Cor 8:9), showing us the path of our calling as disciples and missionaries. In the Gospel we learn the sublime lesson of being poor following Jesus, himself poor (cf. Lk 6:20; 9:58), and that of proclaiming the Gospel of peace with no purse or staff, placing our trust neither in money nor in the power of this world (cf. Lk 1:4 ff)….
In opposition to a Gospel of prosperity, the Latin American bishops offer a message of hope by promoting evangelization as a poor church.
In the 1960’s the long-time identification of the Latin American Catholic Church with power and wealth was challenged by the pastoral practice of many throughout the continent and by the Latin American Bishops Conference at Medellín in 1968.
Liberation theology, in theory and practice, sought to further challenge this. There were a number of ways in which this challenge was frustrated by ecclesiastical politics and the example of bishops seeking political influence by allying with political parties. This paragraph is therefore an important reminder of the importance of what Pope Francis has called “a poor Church, a Church for the poor.”
Central to this is a spirit of generosity. The gratuitousness of the Gospel is to be revealed in the gratuitousness of evangelizers:
God’s generosity is manifested in the generosity of missionaries; the gratuitous character of the gospel is shown in the gratuitousness of apostles.
As I have noted in a previous post, gratuitousness is as theme that can be seen in the work of the Peruvian liberation theologian Gustavo Gutiérrez, as he wrote in We Drink from Our Own Wells, p. 110:
The experience of gratuitousness is the space of encounter with the Lord. Unless we understand the meaning of gratuitousness, there will be no contemplative dimension in our life…. In the final analysis, to believe in God means to live our life as a gift from God and to look at everything that happens as a manifestation of this gift.