VATICAN CITY, OCT. 9, 2012 (Zenit.org).- Here is the translation of the report given yesterday by Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, D.C. and General Relator of the Synod of Bishops.
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It is a great honor for me to serve as the Relator General at this Synod and I am grateful to our Holy Father for this privilege. As we begin our deliberations on the New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith, I want to touch on a number of points that I hope will help focus our discussion and provide some themes for reflection.
None of us come to this Synod without previous preparation realized in our own pastoral ministry, but also supported by the work of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops that produced first the Lineamenta that resulted in suggestions and recommendations from episcopal conferences, synods of the Catholic churches sui iuris, the dicasteries of the Roman Curia, bishops without any episcopal conference and the Union of Superiors General. Observations also came from individual bishops, women and men in consecrated life and the laity, not to mention various Church movements and organizations.
Most recently we are the beneficiaries of the Instrumentum laboris, whic7h provides a carefully developed reflection on the New Evangelization. The Instrumentum is already a framework for much of the Synod’s discussion and I intend to highlight certain areas which can be more deeply developed.
Throughout this presentation I make reference to the Instrumentum laboris.
In my observations, I include the following points:
1) What or Who it is we proclaim – the Word of God;
2) recent resources to help us in our task;
3) particular circumstances of our day that render this Synod necessary;
4) elements of the New Evangelization;
5) some theological principles for the New Evangelization;
6) qualities of the new evangelizers; and finally,
7) charisms of the Church today to assist in task of the New Evangelization.
1) What / Who we proclaim
Our proclamation is focused on Jesus, his Gospel and his way. Christian life is defined by an encounter with Jesus. When Jesus first came among us, he offered a whole new way of living. The excitement spread as God’s Son, who is also one of us, announced the coming of the kingdom. The invitation to discipleship and a place in the kingdom that he held out to those who heard him, he continues to offer today. This has been true for 20 centuries. As his message was more fully understood, it became evident that Jesus offers us not only a new way of living, but also a whole new way of being. As Saint Peter wrote: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who in his great mercy gave us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…” (1 Peter 1:3). This new life as child of God through baptism is revealed to us by Jesus himself: “Amen, amen, I say to you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit” (John 3:5). (cf Instrumentum Laboris nn. 18-19, n. 31)
We rejoice that we have become adopted children and Saint John assures us this adoption is no legal fiction: “See what love the Father has given us, that we should become children of God: and so we are” (1 John 3:1).
The Gospel that Jesus Christ came to reveal is not information about God, but rather God himself in our midst. God made himself visible, audible, tangible. In return, he asks our love.
In the Sermon on the Mount presented in Matthew’s Gospel, we hear of a new way of life and how it involves the merciful, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, those who mourn, the peacemakers, the poor in spirit. Here we learn of the call to be salt of the earth and a light set on a lamp stand. Later in that same Gospel, we hear the extraordinary dictum that we should see in one another the very presence of Christ. Jesus’ disciples are challenged to envision a world where not only the hungry are fed, the thirsty are given drink, the stranger is welcomed and the naked are clothed, but also most amazingly sins are forgiven and eternal life is pledged. (cf Instrumentum Laboris n. 23, nn. 28-29)
Jesus beckons us. The joy we experience compels us to share it with others. We are not only disciples, we are evangelizers. Like those first disciples, we are called to envision ourselves walking alongside Jesus as the sower of the seeds of a new way of living, of a share in a kingdom that will last forever (cf Mt 13:1-9, 18-23; Mk 4:3; Lk 8:5). (cf Instrumentum Laboris n. 25 & n. 34)
That same vision we must hold out today when we invite others to open the pages of the Gospel and read about the invitation to be branches connected to the vine of the Lord, to eat of the bread of everlasting life and to hear the words of truth, words that endure forever.
We need to be able, with lively faith, firm conviction and joyful witness, to renew our proclamation with the understanding that as God spoke to us in times past, so does he continue to speak to us today. As our Holy Father’s post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini so clearly points out, “The relationship between Christ, the Word of the Father, and the Church cannot be fully understood in terms of a mere past event; rather, it is a living relationship which each member of the faithful is personally called to enter into. We are speaking of the presence of God’s word to us today: ‘Lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age’ (Mt 28:20).” (51)
What distinguishes our Catholic faith today is precisely the understanding that the Church is the enduring presence of Christ, the mediator of God’s redeeming action in our world, and the sacrament of God’s saving acts. The Second Vatican Council in the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, began by recalling for us that “the Church, in Christ, is in the nature of sacrament – a sign and instrument, that is, of communion with God and of unity among all people….” (1) (cf Instrumentum Laboris n. 27)
The intellectual and ideological separation of Christ from his Church is one of the first realities we must deal with as we propose a New Evangelization of culture and people today. Already in his encyclical letter God is Love (Deus caritas est) our Holy Father reminded us that “the Church is God’s family in the world” and that “the Church’s deepest nature is expressed in her three-fold responsibility: of proclaiming the word of God, celebrating the sacraments, and exercising the ministry of charity.” Further he points out that “these duties presuppose each other and are inseparable.” (25)
Everything the Church is, she has received from Christ. The first and most precious of his gifts is the grace bestowed through the Paschal Mystery: his passion, death and glorious Resurrection. Jesus has freed us from the power of sin and saved us from death. The Church receives from her Lord not only the tremendous grace he has won for us, but also the commission to share and to make known his victory. We are summoned to transmit faithfully the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world. The Church’s primary mission is evangelization. (cf Instrumentum laboris nn. 23-26)
One of the challenges that both precipitates the New Evangelization and represents a barrier to it is the individualism of our day. Our culture and the emphasis in so much of current society exalts the individual and diminishes each person’s necessary relationship with others. In our society which values individual freedom and autonomy, personal achievement and dominance, it is easy to lose sight of our dependence on others as well as the responsibilities that we have towards them. In his talk to the United States bishops during his 2008 visit to Washington, our Holy Father taught us that the emphasis on our private relationship with God at the expense of our calling to be a member of a redeemed community “is simply further evidence of the urgent need for a renewed evangelization of culture.” (cf Instrumentum laboris n. 7, n. 35, nn. 43-44, n. 48)
The Church never tires of announcing the gift she has received from the Lord. The Second Vatican Council has reminded us that evangelization is at the very heart of the Church. In Lumen Gentium, the fundamental text and nucleus of the Council’s expression on the life of the Church, the Council Fathers emphasized, “The Church has received this solemn mandate of Christ to proclaim the saving truth from the Apostles and must carry it out to the very ends of the earth.” The Council spoke eloquently of the truth that the divine mission that Jesus entrusted to the Church continues through the Apostles and their successors and will last until the end of the world. (cf Instrumentum laboris n. 27 & n. 92)
2) Recent Resources
We do not address the task of the New Evangelization in a vacuum. For decades the Papal Magisterium has guided the Church into a profound awareness of both the problem and how we must confront it. Pope Paul VI initiated the focus, Blessed John Paul II urged a deeper awareness of its need and our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, has made this task of the Church a constant theme in his teaching and preaching.
In his apostolic exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi, Pope Paul VI drew on the teaching of the Council when he affirmed that the Church is “a community which is in its turn evangelizing. The command to the Twelve to go out and proclaim the Good News is also valid for all Christians, though in a different way … the Good News of the kingdom which is coming and which has begun is meant for all people of all times. Those who have received the Good News and who have been gathered by it into the community of salvation can and must communicate and spread it.” In this historic document, issued ten years to the day of the close of the Second Vatican Council, the Pope discerned the need for “a new period of evangelization.” (cf Instrumentum laboris n. 3 & n. 27)
The pontificate of Blessed John Paul II provided us constant referral to elements of the New Evangelization and encouraging teaching in the post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation Catechesi Tradendae, the exhortation following the Synod on the Laity, Christifideles Laici, as well as the encyclical letter Redemptoris Missio. Blessed John Paul reminded us that evangelization is “the primary service which the Church can render to every individual and to all humanity,” and took up the commitment to an evangelization, “new in ardor, methods, and expression.” (cf Instrumentum laboris n. 3 & n. 45)
Pope Benedict XVI has affirmed that the discernment of “the new demands of evangelization” is a “prophetic task of the Supreme Pontiff.” He emphasized that “the entire activity of the Church is an expression of love” that seeks to evangelize the world. With the announcement, in his homily for the Solemnity of the Apostles Peter and Paul at the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls, of the formation of a new Vatican office for the New Evangelization, our Holy Father gave a formal structure to this effort and highlighted the urgency and all-inclusive nature of this mission of the Church. (cf Instrumentum laboris n. 130, n. 149)
Also among the resources available to the Church Universal in the effort once again to repropose the Gospel is the Catechism of the Catholic Church. This compendium of the faith in its many manifestations and applications provides a beacon of light in what, unfortunately, has become in too many instances the gloom of religious ignorance. (cf Instrumentum laboris nn. 100-101)
3) Circumstances of Our Day
The dramatically changing societal background for the reception, appropriation and living of the faith is the context of this Synod. The call to repropose the Catholic faith, to repropose the Gospel message, to repropose the teaching of Christ, is needed precisely because we encounter so many who initially heard this saving proclamation and for whom the message has become stale. The vision has faded. The promises seem empty or unconnected to real life. (cf Instrumentum laboris nn. 41-44)
Across the Church we deal in many instances, but particularly in most of the so-called first world countries, with a dramatic reduction in the practice of the faith among those who are already baptized. Our Holy Father has further specified the work of the New Evangelization as the reproposal of Jesus Christ and his Gospel “in the countries where the first proclamation of the faith has already resonated and where churches with an ancient foundation exist, but are experiencing the progressive secularization of society and a sort of ‘eclipse of the sense of God’…” (June 28, 2010). (cf Instrumentum laboris n. 12, nn. 52-53, n. 94)
The responses from bishops in the so-called third world – more recently evangelized societies – indicate the same experience in their own local churches. (cf Instrumentum laboris nn. 87-89)
This current situation is rooted in the upheavals of the 1970s and 80s, decades in which there was manifest poor catechesis or miscatechesis at so many levels of education. We faced the hermeneutic of discontinuity that permeated so much of the milieu of centers of higher education and was also reflected in aberrational liturgical practice. Entire generations have become disassociated from the support systems that facilitated the transmission of faith. It is as if a tsunami of secular influence has swept across the cultural landscape, taking with it such societal markers as marriage, family, the concept of the common good and objective right and wrong. Tragically, the sins of a few have encouraged a distrust in some of the very structures of the Church herself. (cf Instrumentum laboris n. 69, n. 95, n. 104)
Secularization has fashioned two generations of Catholics who do not know the Church’s foundational prayers. Many do not sense a value in Mass attendance, fail to receive the sacrament of penance and have often lost a sense of mystery or the transcendent as having any real and verifiable meaning.
All of the above resulted in a large segment of the faithful being ill-prepared to deal with a culture that, as our Holy Father has pointed out on his many visits around the world, is characterized by secularism, materialism and individualism.
But the circumstances of our day are not all bleak. Just as it is possible to identify the causes or at least occasions for the negative situation today, so it is also possible to identify an increasingly recognized positive response. Many people, especially the young, who have been alienated from the Church are finding that the secular world does not offer adequate responses to the perennial and demanding questions of the human heart. (cf Instrumentum laboris nn. 63-64, nn. 70-71)
Many pastors have noted that the New Evangelization is unfolding on two levels simultaneously, the introduction into the faith of young children, and the instruction of their parents. For many teachers and those catechized, this is a particularly enriching moment because this time around, the young adults approach the faith with a great deal more openness out of their own need to know more.
Points of contact for many young adults today are found in campus ministry programs at secular universities and colleges, parish or diocesan programs with a focus on current issues of concern today, as well as family orientated events for those with children who seek both spiritual and social support.
Today special mention should also be made of the family itself as the Model – Place of the New Evangelization and related life issues. While contemporary society downplays, and at times even ridicules traditional family life, it remains a natural reality and the first building block of community. The family presents the natural and ordinary context for the transmission of both faith and values, and the reality we so often turn to for support throughout our lives. (cf Instrumentum laboris nn. 110-113)
A quality of the New Evangelization that is increasingly evident is that our efforts to spread the Gospel no longer necessarily take us to foreign lands and distant peoples. Those who need to hear of Christ, all over again, are with us in our neighborhoods and parishes even if they are distant from us in their hearts and minds. Immigration and widespread migration has created a new neighborhood environment for evangelization that too often is really an exercise in the New Evangelization.
The missionaries in the first evangelization covered immense geographic distances to spread the Good News. We, the missionaries of the New Evangelization, must surmount ideological distances just as immense, oftentimes before we ever journey beyond our own neighborhood or family.
4) Elements of the New Evangelization
The New Evangelization is not a program. It is a mode of thinking, seeing and acting. It is a lens through which we see the opportunities to proclaim the Gospel anew. It is also a recognition that the Holy Spirit continues actively to work in the Church.
At its heart the New Evangelization is the reproposing of the encounter with the Risen Lord, his Gospel and his Church to those who no longer find the Church’s message engaging. I believe there are three distinct, but interrelated stages:
a) the renewal or deepening of our faith both intellectually and affectively; (cf Instrumentum laboris n. 24, nn. 37-40, nn. 118-119, nn. 147-158)
1. a new confidence in the truth of our faith; (cf Instrumentum laboris n. 31, n. 41, n. 46, n. 49, n.120) and
2. a willingness to share it with others. (cf Instrumentum laboris n. 33-34, n. 81)
The New Evangelization begins with each of us taking it upon ourselves to renew once again our understanding of the faith and our appropriation of it in a way that more deeply, willingly and joyfully embraces the Gospel message and its application today.
Following on our efforts to renew our own appreciation of the faith should be a new confidence in the truth of our message. Unfortunately, we have for too long seen this confidence eroded by an appropriation of so much of the secular value system that has been lifted up in the past decades as a superior and better way of life than the one proposed by Jesus, his Gospel and his Church. In the educational and theological culture reflective of the hermeneutic of discontinuity, too often the vision of the Gospel was clouded and a sure, confident voice gave way to apologies for what we hold and believe.
In the Gospel we read how Jesus taught with authority (Mark 1:21-22). He taught out of his own self-identity. Jesus has authority because of who he is. “I am the way, the truth and the life” he proclaimed (John 14:6). This divine pedagogy remains the model for us today. The truth – the very revelation of who Jesus is – he shares with us through the Church. Jesus did not leave us orphans. As he returned to his Father, he called those he had chosen and anointed in the Holy Spirit to continue to teach everything that he had made known to them and to proclaim it even to the ends of the earth.
Many of those who today seek some assurance of the value and meaning of life are persuaded by the clear, unambiguous and confident message of Christ presented in his Church. To do this well we need to overcome the syndrome of embarrassment as some have identified the lack of confidence in the truth of the faith and in the wisdom of the Magisterium that characterizes our age.
The third element in the New Evangelization has to be the willingness and desire to share the faith. There are numerous people, particularly in the western world, who have already heard of Jesus. Our challenge is to stir up again and rekindle in the midst of their daily life and concrete situation, a new awareness and familiarity with Jesus. We are called not just to announce but to adapt our approach so as to attract and to urge an entire generation to find again the uncomplicated, genuine and tangible treasure of friendship with Jesus.
The first moment of any evangelization originates not from a program, but in an encounter with a Person, Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The Church maintains that “it is the same Lord Jesus who, present in his Church, goes before the work of evangelizers, accompanies it, follows it and makes their labors bear fruit: what took place at the origins of Christian history continues through its entire course” (CDF, Some Aspects of Evangelization, 1).
We rely first and always on Jesus. He alone is the cornerstone. As we approach those who have grown cold or distant in their faith, the touchstone is the simplicity of instruction that motivates and speaks to the depth of the human person. We turn to our brothers and sisters who have received baptism, and yet, no longer participate in the life of the Church. To them we offer our experience of Jesus’ love, not a philosophical thesis on behavior.
How we communicate must gain access to hearts in a way that the Holy Spirit can reacquaint our sisters and brothers to friendship with Jesus, who alone “is the key, the center and the purpose of all human history” (Gaudium et Spes, 10).
The personal witness of the follower of Jesus is itself a proclamation of the Word. Our message today must, therefore, be grounded in the testimony of our life. These are also moments to invite, not to scold.
Into our world we need to communicate our own joy of being definitively and completely loved and, therefore, capable of loving. Our communication should be in words and in life, in prayer and in deed, in action and in bearing suffering.
5) Theological Foundations for the New Evangelization
Evangelization and the New Evangelization are theological concepts as well as pastoral initiatives.
The document Dominus Jesus from the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith presents nine theological/philosophical deficiencies prevalent today in our conceptual thinking that undermine our evangelizing efforts. A decade earlier the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops conducted a survey of catechetical texts and identified ten doctrinal deficiencies that needed correction.
Since theology uses concepts to convey our faith that is rooted in the Gospel, the very tenets of our faith are threatened if people struggle with its conceptual framework. Secularism and rationalism have created an ideology that subjugates faith to reason. Religion becomes a personal matter. Doctrine in matters of faith is reduced to idiosyncratic positions without any possibility of ever claiming universal truth.
Concepts such as incarnation, resurrection, redemption, sacrament and grace-core themes of theology used to explain our belief in Jesus Christ – have little meaning for the Catholic and the fallen away Catholic in a culture where rationalism prevails. (cf Instrumentum laboris n. 20)
The temptation for the evangelizer, and perhaps for pastors, is to not confront these conceptual obstacles and instead place our focus and energies on more sociological priorities or pastoral initiatives or even develop a vocabulary apart from our own theology.
While it is important that the New Evangelization be alert to the signs of the time and speak with a voice that reaches people today, it must do so without losing its rootedness in the great living faith tradition of the Church already expressed in theological concepts.
As we begin our deliberations and reflections on the New Evangelization, I would suggest that from the Lineamenta, the Instrumentum laboris, and so much of the material provided from Conferences of Bishops from the around the world, a number of theological foundation stones have emerged. I would like to touch on four of them.
a) Anthropological Foundation of Evangelization
If secularization with its atheistic tendencies removes God from the equation, the very understanding of what it means to be human is altered. Thus the New Evangelization must points to the very origin of our human dignity, self-knowledge and self-realization. The fact that each person is created in the image and likeness of God forms the basis for declaring, for example, the universality of human rights. Here, once again, we see the opportunity to speak with conviction to a doubting community about the truth and integrity of realities such as marriage, family, the natural moral order and an objective right and wrong. (cf Instrumentum laboris nn. 63-64, n. 151)
The New Evangelization must rest upon the theological understanding that it is Christ who reveals man to himself, man’s true identity in Christ, the new Adam. This aspect of the New Evangelization has a very practical meaning for the individual. If it is Christ who reveals to us who God is and, therefore, who we are and how we relate to God, then God is not remote or distantly far off. (cf Instrumentum laboris n. 19)
The presumptive foundation of the New Evangelization must be the natural desire that all have for communion with the transcendent – with God. Within each human being is the basic orientation to the transcendent and the right order of life rooted in the natural created order. The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us that the Decalogue is itself a privileged expression of the natural law. The New Evangelization has to rest on the understanding that it is the Christian faith that offers us some understanding when we address the problem of evil, the reality of sin, the fall and the call to new life. Evil and sin are indeed obstacles to the Gospel, but it is precisely the Gospel message that makes sense of the human condition and the possibility of a life that overcomes the inherent limitations of human frailty. Ultimately the New Evangelization must rest on the recognition that it is in the light of Jesus Christ that we understand fully what it means to be human.
b) Christological Foundation of the New Evangelization
As has already been noted, New Evangelization is the re-introduction, the re-proposing, of Christ. Our proclamation of Christ, however, begins with a clear theological explanation of who Christ is, his relationship to the Father, his divinity and humanity, and the reality of his death and Resurrection. At the center of our Christian faith is Christ. But the Christ we proclaim is the Christ of revelation, the Christ understood in his Church, the Christ of tradition and not of personal, sociological, or aberrant theological creation. On our own, none of us could come to know the mind, heart, love and identity of God. Jesus came to reveal the truth – about God and about ourselves. (cf Instrumentum laboris nn. 18-21)
c) The Ecclesiological Foundation of the New Evangelization
The New Evangelization must provide a clear theological explanation for the necessity of the Church for salvation. This is a sensitive aspect of our preaching and too often has been neglected in catechesis. Rampant in much of the revival culture of today is the sentiment that salvation is achieved through a relationship with Jesus apart from the Church. But what needs to be emphasized and demonstrated is that Christ meets man wherever he is, in and through the presence of the Church. (cf Instrumentum laboris nn. 35-36)
The scriptures provide many images and parables to describe the Church. One image of it is a great family of people united in Christ and with each other through baptism. Saint Paul speaks of the Church as the body of Christ with our Lord as the head and we as the members. Writing to the faithful of Corinth he says: “Now you are Christ’s body and individually parts of it” (1 Corinthians 12:27).
The basis of our efforts in the New Evangelization must be the recognition that in baptism Christ gave each of us the gifts of the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit, the soul of the Church, that binds us together in a unity that overcomes every kind of division. (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:13). (cf Instrumentum laboris n. 119)
The New Evangelization must speak about God’s universal salvific will and at the same time recognize that Jesus has provided a clear and unique path to redemption and salvation. The Church is not one among many ways to reach God, all of them equally valid. While God does wish all to be saved, it is precisely out of his universal salvific will that God sent Christ to bring us to adoption and eventual eternal glory.
d) Soterological Foundations of the New Evangelization
Intrinsic to the understanding of God’s presence with us today is the awareness of what we mean by his kingdom. In the New Testament, we find the kingdom everywhere. To Jesus, it seems to be a preoccupation. From the moment he “began to preach,” he announced that “the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17). Jesus spoke of the kingdom’s subjects, its power, its boundaries, its duration. (cf Instrumentum laboris n. 24)
The heart of the Gospel is the kingdom. If we want to live a Christian life — if we want to make a credible claim that we are followers of Jesus — it’s essential that we look to this kingdom he has proclaimed.
On earth the kingdom is hidden mysteriously and may be encountered anywhere, but only in a spiritual way. God’s reign “already exists and will be fulfilled at the end of time. The kingdom has come in the person of Christ and grows mysteriously in the hearts of those incorporated into him” (CCC 865).
Thus we learn that Christ has established his kingdom on earth, though not yet in the fullness of its glory. It is here, but it is still growing. “At the end of time, the Kingdom of God will come in its fullness” (CCC 1060). In the meantime, “Christ the Lord already reigns through the Church” (CCC 680).
The four theological foundation blocks for the New Evangelization point out for us that whatever we hope to achieve in this Synod and whatever pastoral goals we set for reproposing Christ to this age, we must do so firmly rooted in the biblical vision of man created in the image and likeness of God, as part of a creation that reflects God’s wisdom and presents a natural, moral order for man’s activities. Marring this created beauty is sin and the egoism that has marked every successive generation. However, into this world God sent his Son to offer us new life. He established a Church to continue his living and saving presence. Our salvation is intimately related to our participation in the great sacrament that is the Church through which we hope both to manifest the kingdom coming to be now and to realize our part in it in glory.
6) The Qualities of the New Evangelizers
Among the qualities required for the evangelizer today, and there are many that can be identified, four stand out: boldness or courage, connectedness to the Church, a sense of urgency and joy. (cf Instrumentum laboris n. 46, n. 49, nn. 168-169)
In the Acts of the Apostles the word that describes the Apostles after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost is “bold.” Peter is depicted as boldly standing up and preaching the Good News of the Resurrection, later Paul takes up the theme and in frenetic movement around the world accessible to him, he boldly announces the word. (cf Instrumentum laboris n. 41)
Today the New Evangelization must show a boldness born of confidence in Christ. Examples abound of the quiet boldness: Saint Maximilian Kolbe, Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, and before them Blessed Miguel Pro and the recent martyrs of Lithuania, Spain, Mexico and the more distant witness by the saints of Korea, Nigeria and Japan. (cf Instrumentum laboris n. 128 & n. 158)
When we speak of courage, we must also recognize the need for institutional witness in the those particular churches that enjoy the presence of institutional expressions of the Church, colleges, universities, hospitals, health care ministries, social services and other types of outreach to the poor, there must be a recognition that these institutional expressions of the life of the Church should also bear testimony to God’s Word.
The evangelizers for the New Evangelization need also a connectedness with the Church, her Gospel and her pastoral presence. The authentication of what we proclaim and the verification of the truth of our message that these are the words of everlasting life depend on our communion with the Church and our solidarity with its pastors. (cf Instrumentum laboris nn. 77-78)
Another quality of the New Evangelization and, therefore those engaged in it, is a sense of urgency. Perhaps we need to see in Luke’s account of the Mary’s Visitation of Elizabeth, a model for our own sense of urgency. The Gospel recounts how Mary set off in haste in a long and difficult journey from Nazareth to a hill country in the village of Judea. There was no time to be lost because her mission was so important. (cf Instrumentum laboris n. 138 & n. 149)
Finally, when we look around and see the vast field open, waiting for us to sow seeds of new life, we must do so with joy. Our message should be one that inspires others joyfully to follow us along the path to the kingdom of God. Joy must characterize the evangelizer. Ours is a message of great joy, Christ is risen, Christ is with us. Whatever our circumstances, our witness should radiate with the fruits of the Holy Spirit including love, peace and joy (Galatians 5:22).
7) Charisms of the Church Today to Assist in the New Evangelization
Social Justice Issues
An area that points to a renewed appreciation of our Catholic faith and interest in it is the value being placed on questions of social justice. We recognize that more than a century of articulated Catholic social teaching has shaped and continues to influence much of the development of social justice in large parts of the world. Catholic social justice did not develop in a vacuum. In the decades prior to the encyclical Rerum Novarum, the stage was set on which the struggle for social justice and human rights would take place. With the promulgation of Rerum Novarum in 1891, the Church sought to confront the terrible exploitation and poverty of workers at the end of the nineteenth century. (cf Instrumentum laboris n. 71, nn. 123-124, n. 130)
While it would be inaccurate to say that Jesus promoted any particular political, social or economic program, he did establish basic principles that should characterize any just, humane, economic or political system. Only faith can provide the conviction that our works of justice endure as part of the plan of God to bring about the kingdom of God.
Today when we look at issues that offer an invitation to many who are disaffected from the Church, we can take great encouragement from the desire of so many young people today to be involved in service ministry. For them, the Church’s teaching on social justice is both a revelation and an invitation to a fuller life in the Church.
New Communities / Ecclesial Movements
We do not set out on the task of the New Evangelization alone. Nor are we the first to address how this task must be carried out. A sign of the New Evangelization underway are the ecclesial movements and new communities that bring such blessing to the Church today. These expressions of the movement of the Holy Spirit add to the spiritual wealth of the long present charisms of the religious orders and congregations that work so faithfully to bear witness to the coming of the kingdom through their commitment to living the evangelical counsels of perfection. Christ’s invitation to many to close discipleship endures in the Church in a special way in the religious life. (cf Instrumentum laboris n. 115)
I will not attempt to list the new religious communities for fear of leaving out too many that are already bearing great fruit. The same is true of the New Ecclesial Movements such as Communion and Liberation, Opus Dei and the Neocatechumenal Way, to mention just three. All point to the work of the Holy Spirit engaging the Church today with those who have drifted away.
One task of our efforts to engage the Church in the work of the New Evangelization might be to call upon all the new movements and new communities to integrate their energy and practices more fully into the life of the whole Church, especially as manifested in the local, particular Church under the apostolic care of the bishop. (cf Instrumentum laboris n. 116)
At the September 2011 gathering sponsored by the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization, it became very apparent that there is a rich core of young, vibrant faithful who are already engaged in the tasks of the New Evangelization and who are already gathered in groups composing a vast array of movements and spiritual homes.
As we initiate our response to the call of our Holy Father for this Synod to address the New Evangelization, it seems appropriate to suggest that what lies before us is a fourfold mission:
1) reaffirm the essential nature of evangelization;
2) note the theological foundations of the New Evangelization;
3) encourage the many current manifestations of the New Evangelization;
4) suggest practical ways in which the New Evangelization can be encouraged, structured and implemented, for example, in parishes, campus ministry programs, organizations of professionals, chaplaincies to divergent groups, including military, health care and social service ministries, as well as the encouragement of young professionals in every area to see themselves as instruments of the Church’s evangelizing activity. Given the importance of public policy that is reflective of human freedom, human dignity and the natural moral order, the next generation of those involved in political life should also be a focus of our practical observations.
It would seem that out of the deliberations on the current situation that the Church faces today, should come the affirmation of her essential call to evangelization, the recognition of so many agents and instruments of renewal and a presentation of practical guidance and encouragement.
This Synod should be a call to all of the Church to see life and reality through the lens of the New Evangelization in a way that highlights that much is already underway and that many of the faithful are already familiar with aspects of it, even if not always identified by the name New Evangelization.
As we undertake our work, we have every reason to do so with optimism and enthusiasm because the seeds of the New Evangelization sown over the pontificates of Paul VI, John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI are already beginning to sprout. Our task is to find ways to nurture, encourage and hasten the growth.