The New Evangelization is For Everyone

jesus, Christian

We are born with an eternal hunger, a tremendous need in spirit and soul for the deepest relationship with God. Nothing else will do. Yet, from our earliest days we search and seek out what will satisfy, what will fill the “God-sized hole within.” Over time, this eternal hunger, this profound spiritual need, becomes like a grating piece of sand in the oyster. We take it and cover it over with the things of this world, pearl glaze, but it is never satisfied. We build fortresses to protect ourselves from the pain caused by the hunger and need. We seek the things of this world and lament the hard, cruel taskmasters who have taken the straw we need to make the bricks, forcing us to gather our own straw and still produce the same quota. We die inside a thousand times a day until we hear the Voice of our Eternal Lover who stands “at the door and knocks.”

Then we become like John the Baptist in his mother’s womb, jumping and leaping for joy! Everything turns inside out. We begin to think differently, feel differently, love differently. We have found our Lover and nothing will ever be the same. We are free, and it is the most glorious freedom one could ever want. The gates to the Garden open once again, the Cherubim with the fiery revolving sword have departed. From the edge of the Garden we see the Tree of Life, bursting with eternal fruit, ripe for the picking.

That Voice we hear deep within our spirit comes through the voice of the evangelist, who tells us about Him who loved us before time began. This is the importance of evangelization: it helps us to realize that we have a tremendous inner need for God, a destroying, unquenchable fire within – until touched by the cleansing, cooling, quenching, waters of the Holy Spirit, and the purifying “refiner’s fire” (Malachi 3:2).

Speaking the Truth

God’s plan is that we who have heard the unutterable Voice and have chosen the freedom and the new life it promises should speak to others of the things that are better than what the world provides. When we hear it, we must speak it. Evangelization is preaching the truth about the Fall of Mankind, that it is all-encompassing and that includes every man, woman, and young person. By virtue of being human, every person has sought the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil and has come away empty, burdened, sorrowful, and forever hungry.

St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans tells us that people must hear about Jesus Christ, the Messiah, who gave His life for each of us. He died for each person, and rose on the third day. He welcomes us into His fold, His Church. In and through the sacraments, we join ourselves in a deeper way to Him who loves us. How can they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? How can they hear without someone to preach? How can people preach unless they are sent? (cf. Romans 10: 10-17). These questions form the basis of the work of evangelization, and they begin first with “me” and “you.”

The Need for Evangelization

Evangelization begins first with “me.” Unless I first believe in Him, unless I first hear His unutterable Voice in the depths of my soul, I will never be an evangelist. Who can preach about something they do not know or believe in? While we do not have to understand God, we do have to know Him.

We usually tell people about things in our lives that are either tremendous or terrible. Nothing else is worth speaking about. If we believe that a certain cleanser is the best cleaning and polishing compound for our stainless-steel pots, we will tell everyone we know who has stainless steel pots. If we believe that a certain part of town is dangerous and has negative influence, we will tell everyone to avoid the place. But anything that does not impact our lives in a positive or negative way becomes part of the background noise we live with every day – generally not that important and certainly not worth speaking about. The world, in fact, would be very happy if we put our faith in that non-important category and relegated faith and religion to church on Sundays.

However, if my relationship with Christ consists only of a few minutes at Mass, funerals and weddings, or when praying over dinner and even breakfast and lunch, I could never be one to evangelize. Even if I try to live a good and righteous life, that minimalistic kind of relationship with God will not make me an evangelist. In that case, I can only hope that people will see how positive I am and conclude that it must be the Holy Spirit or my attending church that makes a difference. If they ask me about Jesus or my faith, then I will tell them, but I will not take initiative.

Changing the World

That is not evangelization. It is good to live a positive, good-neighborly kind of life that people admire and that causes others to look askance, but there is no change in others. That is your part! As mentioned earlier, evangelization is about “me” and “you” – it is about changing hearts. One shares the tremendous faith of the Church, the other receives what is shared and has a life-changing experience. In his Exhortation, Evangelii Nuntiandi, Pope Paul VI tells us that the proclamation of the Gospel

only reaches full development when it is listened to, accepted and assimilated, and when it arouses a genuine adherence in the one who has thus received it. An adherence to the truths which the Lord in His mercy has revealed; still more, an adherence to a program of life – a life henceforth transformed – which He proposes. In a word, adherence to the kingdom that is to say to the ‘new world,’ to the new state of things, to the new manner of being, of living, of living in community, which the Gospel inaugurates. (n. 23)

Likewise, Pope Benedict XVI tells us in his Apostolic Letter, Porta Fidei, that “there exists a profound unity between the act by which we believe and the content to which we give our assent” (n. 10). In the Catechism of the Catholic Church we learn about the “second conversion,” as an uninterrupted task for the whole Church. “This endeavor of conversion is not just a human work. It is the movement of a ‘contrite heart,’ drawn and moved by grace to respond to the merciful love of God who loved us first” (CCC, 1428). What a tremendous opportunity to love! Evangelization is for everyone, everyday!

Time for a New Evangelization

The “New Evangelization” calls each of us to (1) deepen our faith, (2) believe in the Gospel message, and (3) go forth to proclaim the Gospel, which means that all Catholics are called, first, to be evangelized and, then, to go forth and evangelize.

Secularization is a powerful force, an enemy of the Gospel. Pope St. Pius X called this secularization “Modernity.” Its power is strong and subtle. In some areas, like pop culture and the media, it is often able to defeat the Church without firing a shot. Secularization is one of the enemies we fight with the New Evangelization.

The New Evangelization offers hope – the hope of salvation and eternal life. Unfortunately, few people are interested in the “End” – that is, eschatology, teaching about the “last things.” It is all about now – living in the here-and-now – “Grabbing all you can, canning all you grab, then sitting on the can!”

In a Catholic News Agency/EWTN article from June 14, 2011, Pope Benedict XVI explained that “the effort to renew the evangelization of mankind begins in the human heart.” He stated that “to be effective the proclamation of faith must begin with a heart that believes, hopes, loves, a heart that loves Christ and believes in the power of the Holy Spirit.” The New Evangelization offers the gifts of faith, hope, love, and new life in Christ. It is the responsibility of everyone in the Church to seek these gifts in their own lives: to be filled first, and then to be poured out. Pope Benedict said that St. Peter’s proclamation of Jesus’ Resurrection at Pentecost was “not confined to a simple list of facts,” but rather “cut to the heart” of those who heard him.

An Urgent Task

At that same time, the Pope stressed the urgency of evangelizing modern society. “The crisis we are living through carries with it signs of exclusion of God from peoples’ lives, a general indifference to Christian faith, and even the intention of marginalizing it from public life.” The Pope explained that the term “New Evangelization” recalls the need of a new way of evangelizing, “especially for those who live in a situation like today’s, where the development of secularization has left deep marks on even traditional Christian countries” (Vatican Information Service, 5/30/2011).

Pope Benedict XVI noted that there is a growing phenomenon of people in modern society “who wish to belong to the Church but who are strongly determined by a vision of life that is opposed to the faith.” In other words, people may be church-goers for the benefits found in the local church – fellowship or community – but never fully realize the power of salvation. “It is important to make them understand that being Christian is not a type of outfit that one wears in private or on special occasions, but something living and totalizing, capable of taking all that is good in modernity.”

The Mission Has Not Changed

Despite the modern challenges, the Christian mission has not changed – “just as the enthusiasm and courage that motivated the Apostles and first disciples should not change.” Pope Benedict emphasized that the entire Christian community is called to revive its missionary spirit in order to offer the new message for which the people of our times are longing. He insists that the lifestyle of believers needs real credibility. He said Christians should be “much more convincing because the condition of the persons to whom [the Gospel message] is addressed is dramatic.”

Although we speak of evangelization as “new”, it only seems new to our present generation of Catholics. In a letter from Pope Leo XIII to Cardinal Gibbons, in January of 1899, the pontiff stated, “… it is through men, that men are to find out the way to salvation.” Because of the unlimited love of Christ, God has determined to share His work with mankind!

It is time to pick up the torch and run the race that is set before us.

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5 thoughts on “The New Evangelization is For Everyone”

  1. I love when authors express truth through poetic prose. It somehow reaches me on multiple levels, challenging my mind, and stirring my heart. Your article makes me wish that more Protestants would look at Catholicism’s approach to evangelization and understand that Catholics care deeply about reaching out to a lost world. I admire those who have hearts that break for the weak and lost ones. I also love that people are discovering that there are so many ways to evangelize – writing great articles for one, living out the spiritual and corporal works of mercy for another. You share about this issue so well, and I know many will be touched by your words. Nicely done!

  2. Thank you Richard. I admire anyone who can work with inmates. I pray for them weekly and I jumped a burglar as he left my house five years ago and bested him and this May, I had a home invasion at 2am. ( ny harbor area). The door seemed to explode as he or they broke all 3 locks simultaneously but I had an additional level of defense…a pipe further blocking the door from opening beyond 9 inches/ motion detector alarms that went off/ and me…6’3” 212lbs. muscle all …with a 7 shot 12 gauge in that area instantly with 9 shells on the stock…2 double ott but the rest #8
    birdshot which kills at close range but loses penetration after one wall for neighbor safety. I love inmates in essence but I’m ever ready to kill them first if they raise a pistol. Fortunately this is 9 times God has protected me in lethal situations throughout life. The devil brings them…God knocks them out of the park…until and unless He needs me to die to convert one of them during a fight. Recent death penalty change by three Popes? Farce biblically ( Rom.13:4) and common sense wise (non death penalty Brazil has 60,000 murders a year with millions of poor unlike Europe and New England) and China has 11,000 murders a year with hundreds of millions of poor and 7 times Brazil’s population. How can you convert China leadership to the Church when they look at Catholic non death penalty northern Latin America
    and see murder rates being the worst of the whole globe from Brazil to Mexico by UN figures at wiki.
    The new death penalty change will block the conversion of all males worldwide who think like Pius XII did in 1952 or like the Holy Spirit does in Rom.13:4…or like the good thief thought..” we are getting what our deeds deserve.”

    1. Richard Van Kirk

      You have seen it all brother, I admire you for standing for right. It’s a fight we must enter into every day. God bless you abundantly, and keep you safe. And, God help anyone who tries to outsmart you!

  3. I think writing from a ranch in northern NY as you ride horses and raise beef and make trails is exactly the very very new evangelization …the internet evangelisation…but you’re reaching the choir like most internet writers. Door to door evangelization is out of season because until the Church knows how many priests are unrepentant gays, we can’t urge new human beings to send their kids to Confession. And we have no idea how many are unrepentant gays. Scripture says there is a time and season for everything under the sun.
    It is not the season for recruiting new people to the Church until the Church knows their clergy intimately…and requires many to leave.
    On top of that big problem, we have Bishop Barron on you tube saying with Rahner and Von Balthasar that hope in an empty hell is rational….keeping in mind that Christ in Luke 13:24 said, “Many will seek to enter on that day and will not be able.” Why evangelize if getting into hell is near impossible? With great difficulty will a rich man enter the kingdom according to Christ but now our leading lights are saying something more palatable…it’s difficult to not get into the kingdom at any salary level. We all have people in our lives who ignore God. That is where our energy is going. We pray and write when that is plausible….when that is not casting pearls before swine. But seeking new converts? You would have to find people who don’t read the news much. That’s why the Bishops are very interested in Central American immigrants. They read less than the college grads do about the currents whirling through the Church.

    1. Richard Van Kirk

      Thank you for your reply. I feel the frustration and anger in your response and will tell you that throughout the history of our Church from the day Jesus left from the Mount of Olives there have been crises and disruption, enough to shake the foundation of our Faith. It is Christ we proclaim, not institutions. Mt. 7: 14 concurs with your assessment: The Gate is Narrow and the Way Hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. We are called to be warriors for Christ. He must be made known. I have not always wrangled cows and ridden horses. I spent many years in the prison system and Mental Health. I have seen person’s lives changed by Christ. There is no other One who is able to bring salvation. Let us pray that the light will shine in all the dark places ands those that are not of God will flee.

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