FROM THE SERVANT GENERAL
THE NEW EVANGELIZATION
ASPECTS OF THE NEW EVANGELIZATION
April 30, 2012
Today’s reading: Acts 11:1-18
Today’s reading from Acts provides us some elements that would be proper to the New Evangelization.
First, we must always soak our work in prayers. Peter said, “I was at prayer in the city of Joppa when in a trance I had a vision” (Acts 11:5a). We must pray. Then, we must not only pray, but we must pray intently. Prayer is time off from the world in order to be with Jesus in an intimate setting. Prayer is allowing Jesus to speak to us, and for the Holy Spirit to guide us in the way we are to go. Prayer not only brings us closer to God, but gives us a clearer vision of what we are called to be and to do.
Second, our proclamation is focused on the good news of salvation in Jesus. We are those “who will speak words to you by which you and all your household will be saved.” (Acts 11:14). It is not just about doing good works, it is not just about doing any kind of service, but it is about bringing people to a living relationship with Jesus who is Savior and Lord. It is for pagans as well as nominal Christians. People need to be led to repentance and faith. “God has then granted life-giving repentance to the Gentiles too.” (Acts 11:18c).
Third, we are not to discriminate in the work. Peter had thought the salvation of God was only for the Jews. The Holy Spirit turned him around, and he said, “The Spirit told me to accompany them without discriminating.” (Acts 11:12). The gospel is for all — for all nationalities, cultures and social classes. It is for all ages, from the youngest to the oldest. It is for everyone who is already a Christian, as there needs to be continuing transformation in Christ, leading to a life of holiness. It is about a constant proclamation in the normal day-to-day circumstances of our lives.
Fourth, it involves empowerment by the Holy Spirit. “As I began to speak, the holy Spirit fell upon them as it had upon us at the beginning” (Acts 11:15). This is the so-called baptism in the Spirit. Jesus himself said “you will be baptized with the holy Spirit.” (Acts 11:16b). For those who are already sacramentally baptized, this is about the renewed infilling or outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the lives of people. It is about an adult decision to live for Christ, and allowing the Holy Spirit within us to take over our lives.
Fifth, there must be no hindering the Holy Spirit. Christians can be the worst enemies of the gospel. We must be attuned, attentive to and docile to the Spirit. We must not oppose the Spirit, which we often do without perhaps even knowing it. This happens when we do not strive to become holy temples of the Holy Spirit. This happens when priests and even bishops oppose the work of good groups that are trying to spread the gospel. This happens when Christian organizations put other Christian organizations down, maligning them or even filing unwarranted court cases against them. To do these things is sheer arrogance. Are we limiting God in how He calls and uses people to do His work? We must challenge ourselves and ask: “who was I to be able to hinder God?” (Acts 11:17b).
Sixth, we should not keep looking to obstacles and give reasons for not doing the work. Christians come up with many reasons not to evangelize massively — not enough money, not enough people, no opportunities, too dangerous, wanting to be politically correct. They might even use the good things in life as excuses — taking care of the family, earning a living, enjoying secular life. We must know that we are commanded to proclaim the gospel. This is our responsibility, and this is our privilege. There will always be problems and difficulties and challenges, but these should spur us on to greater zeal and endurance. No more ifs or buts. We must simply take the posture of the brothers after they heard Peter: “they stopped objecting” (Acts 11:18a).
Seventh, the glory must always be to God. We can do our work quietly and without fanfare. We do not look to social acclaim. We do not seek honors or awards. We do not proclaim or project ourselves but only Jesus. We in fact joyfully suffer opposition and persecution for the sake of Christ. All our acts are such that we can affirm that we have only “glorified God” (Acts 11:18b).
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