How to evangelize in today’s increasingly secular world continues to be a matter of vital concern to the Church. Earlier this month the Episcopal Commission for Doctrine of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) published a document titled: “The Essential Elements of Evangelization Today.”
The document is intended not only for priests, consecrated men and women, but also for “all Catholics who desire to understand better and respond more zealously to their call to evangelize the modern world,” the press release affirmed.
It was written prior to the release of Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation, “The Joy of the Gospel,” but the release commented, “its approach and recommendations are similar, while providing a uniquely Canadian perspective.”
The text begins by acknowledging the context of a pluralist society, in which there are different religions and belief systems. This pluralism, “poses vast new challenges for the call we have received to proclaim the Gospel in our world today.”
We cannot carry out the task of evangelization, the document explains, assuming that there is a common Christian culture in the society around us. Instead, we are in a situation where there are many other beliefs and philosophies.
This is particularly the case in Canada, due to the high levels of immigration from countries with a non-Christian background.
In today’s pluralist society, “the Christian faith is one option among others claiming the same character of truth and demanding the same adherence.”
“We need to rediscover the vigour of the early Church and be inspired by its action, so that our proclamation of the Gospel will be credible and compelling to a world enamored with authenticity, broken by divisions, and marked by inequalities,” the commission declared.
The core of the document then went on to consider how the proclamation of the Gospel should be guided. It should be oriented by three Greek words; martyria, that is, witness; koinonia, that is, communion or fraternity; and diakonia, that is, service.
The commission also insisted on the importance of each person’s living of the faith. “No disciple can communicate the Gospel in a credible way if he or she has not had a real interior encounter with Jesus.”
It is also necessary to live authentically. The document referred to Bishop Francois de Laval, Canada’s first bishop, who said, “Let there be nothing in our lives or behaviour that would seem to contradict what we say, or that would trouble the minds and hearts of those we want to win for God.”
Although this was written before the publication of Pope Francis’ “Joy of the Gospel,” the text contains a reflection on the need for joy. “Joy is at the heart of the Christian experience,” it said, quoting Pope Benedict in his 2012 message for World Youth Day.
The world, Pope Paul VI commented: “is searching, sometimes with anguish, sometimes with hope, [for …] the Good News not from evangelizers who are dejected, discouraged, impatient, or anxious, but from ministers of the Gospel whose lives glow with fervor, who have first received the joy of Christ, and who are willing to risk their lives so that the Kingdom may be proclaimed and the Church established in the midst of the world.”