“You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.”
You hear this term a lot in Catholic circles, but just what does it mean and how can you take part in it?
Three of the most recent Popes have spoken of Evangelization. Pope Paul VI in Evangelii Nuntiandi stated that the Church “exists in order to evangelize, that is to say in order to preach and teach, to be the channel of the gift of grace, to reconcile sinners with God, and to perpetuate Christ’ sacrifice in the Mass, which is the memorial of this death and glorious Resurrection.”
Saint John Paul II renewed the call to all of the Christian faithful to evangelize. In 1983 he addressed the Catholic bishops of Latin America and called for a New Evangelization. This marked the first time Saint John Paul II used the term “New Evangelization” as a concept of proclaiming the Gospel anew to those already evangelized. He called for new “ardor, methods and expression” of evangelization, ones that engage the present culture. In his encyclical Redemptoris Missio, he speaks of three different situations for evangelization:
- The Church addressing those who do not know Christ and His Gospel, mission ad gentes,
- Christian communities where the Church is solid and people are fervent in their faith and Christian living,
- Places where ancient Christian roots exist but Christian communities “have lost a living sense of the faith or even no longer consider themselves members of the Church, and live a life far removed from Christ and His Gospel. In this case, what is needed is a ‘new evangelization’ or a ‘re-evangelization’.”
Pope Benedict XVI renewed the Church’s call to the New Evangelization and announced the establishment of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization in his homily on the Solemnity of SS. Peter and Paul in 2010. He called for a “renewed evangelization 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", which pose a challenge to finding appropriate to propose anew the perennial truth of Christ's Gospel.”
Pope Benedict XVI also indicated that the New Evangelization is not a single formula meant for all circumstances; first and foremost, it is a personal “profound experience of God”.
How can you take part in it? Evangelization is about sharing a relationship, a friendship with the Lord. But you can’t share what you don’t have. Christ must be at the center of our life. Everything then will fall into place, into harmony. When He isn’t the center of our life, we are out of kilter. St. Augustine said, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” Evangelizers must remind people of whom they are and that only God will satisfy the hunger. How do we find the center of our life? We find it in the Eucharist, the source and summit of our Catholic Faith; through reception of the Eucharist at Mass and being in the presence of our Lord in Eucharistic Adoration.
The New Evangelization is about bringing the “light to the nations”. Jesus Christ is the light we are sharing. We must bring this light to our world today in a new way using new expressions and be on fire in doing so. We must not be afraid but share the truths of our faith not in a defensive way but show it off with confidence. Radiate the joy; God’s love inside us. In joy, you can teach without preaching. This is what Pope Francis is speaking of. People will see our joy and how we love and take care of each other and be drawn by this love.