Papal Address to New Evangelizers

“To Be Evangelizers Is Not a Privilege, But a Commitment That Comes From Faith”

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VATICAN CITY, OCT. 17, 2011 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI gave Saturday to participants in an event hosted by the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization.

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Lord Cardinals,

Venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and the Priesthood

Dear Friends!

I joyfully received the invitation from the president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization to be with you today, this afternoon at least briefly and especially tomorrow in the Eucharistic Celebration. I thank Archbishop Fisichella for the words of greeting he addressed to me in your name, and I am delighted to see that you are very numerous. I know you are representing many others that, like you, are committed in the difficult task of the New Evangelization. I greet all those who are following this event through the media, which enables many new evangelizers to be connected at the same time, though they are scattered throughout different parts of the world.

You chose as the motto for your reflection today the expression: “The Word of God Increases and Multiplies.” The Evangelist Luke uses this formula many times in the book of the Acts of the Apostles; in different situations, he affirms, in fact, that “the Word of God increased and multiplied” (cf. Acts 6:7; 12:24). However for today’s theme you modified the tense of the two verbs to evidence a very important aspect of the faith: the conscious certainty that the Word of God is always alive, in all the moments of history, up to our days, because the Church actualizes it through her faithful transmission, the celebration of the sacraments and the witness of believers. That is why our history is in continuity with that of the early Christian community, it lives with the same spirit.

But what ground does the Word of God find? As then, also today it encounters closure and rejection, ways of thinking and living that are far from the search for God and truth. Contemporary man is often confused and unable to find answers to so many questions that unsettle his mind in regard to the meaning of life and to the questions that dwell in the depth of his heart. Man cannot elude these questions that affect the meaning of himself and of reality, and he cannot live only in one dimension! However, it is no accident that he is distracted from the search for the essential in life, while an ephemeral happiness is suggested to him, making him content only for an instant, and immediately leaving sadness and dissatisfaction.

However, despite the condition of contemporary man, we can still affirm with certainty, as at the beginning of Christianity, that the Word of God continues growing and spreading. Why? I would like to point out, at least, three reasons. The first is that the strength of the Word does not depend, in the first place, on our action, on our means, on our “doing,” but on God, who hides his power under the signs of weakness, who makes himself present in the light morning breeze (cf. 1 Kings 19:12), who reveals himself on the wood of the Cross. We must always believe in the humble power of the Word of God and allow God to act! The second reason is that the seed of the Word, as the Gospel parable of the Sower narrates, falls also today on good soil that receives it and produces fruit (cf. Matthew 13:3-9). And the new evangelizers are part of this field that enables the Gospel to grow in abundance and transform one’s life and that of others. In the world, although evil makes much noise, good ground continues to exist. The third reason is that the proclamation of the Gospel has effectively reached the ends of the earth; even in the midst of indifference, incomprehension and persecution, many continue, yet today, with courage, opening the heart and mind to receive the invitation of Christ to encounter him and become his disciples. Though not making noise, they are as the grain of mustard that becomes a tree, the leaven that ferments the dough, the grain of wheat that is destroyed to create the ear. All this, if on one hand it gives consolation and hope because it shows an incessant missionary ferment that animates the Church, on the other hand, it must fill everyone with a renewed sense of responsibility for the Word of God and the diffusion of the Gospel.

The Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelization, which I instituted last year, is a valuable instrument to identify the great questions that are moving in the various sectors of society and contemporary culture. It is called to offer a particular help to the Church in her mission and above all in those countries of ancient Christian, which seem to be indifferent if not hostile to the Word of God. Today’s world needs persons who proclaim and witness that Christ teaches us the art of living, the way to true happiness, because He himself is the Way of Life; people who look steadily, first of all, at Jesus, the Son of God: The word of the proclamation must be immersed in an intense relationship with Him, in an intense life of prayer. Today’s world needs persons who speak to God to be able to speak of God. And we must also remember that Jesus did not redeem the world with beautiful words or showy means, but with suffering and death. The law of the grain of wheat that dies in the earth also serves today; we cannot give life to others, without giving our life: “Whoever loses his life for my sake and the Gospel’s will save it,” the Lord says to us (Mark 8:35). Seeing all of you and knowing the great commitment that each one gives to the service of the mission, I am convinced that the new evangelizers will multiply increasingly to give life to the real transformation that the present world needs. Only through men and women permeated with the presence of God, will the Word of God continue its journey in the world bearing its fruits.

Dear friends, to be evangelizers is not a privilege, but a commitment that comes from faith. To the question the Lord addresses to Christians: “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” you answer with the same courage and the same trust as the Prophet: “Here I am! Send me” (Isaiah 6:8). I ask you to let yourselves be permeated by the grace of God and that you correspond docilely to the action of the Spirit of the Risen One. Be signs of hope, capable of looking at the future with the certainty that comes from the Lord Jesus, who has conquered death and has given us eternal life. Communicate to all the joy of the faith with the enthusiasm that comes from being moved by the Holy Spirit, because He makes all things new (cf. Revelation 21:5), trusting in the promise made by Jesus to the Church: “And lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

At the end of this day let us also pray for the protection of the Virgin Mary, Star of the New Evangelization, while from my heart I accompany each one of you and your commitments with the Apostolic Blessing. Thank you.

[Translation by ZENIT]
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